Have you ever seen a child fall down, and then look towards his or her parent before breaking into tears? In that moment, it seems as though the child is trying to determine the appropriate response to the situation before he or she reacts.

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If we were publishing a visual dictionary, we know what we would put beside the word, "trusting." It would be the picture of a young child. Nothing is more important to infants and toddlers than relationships with nurturing, loving people, both inside and outside the family. In fact, that is how they define the world and what it has to offer.

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All cities are working hard to answer challenges that face them, but the trick is to make sure the right questions are asked in the first place. The brain development of our youngest children in Memphis must be a top priority for our local agenda. We now have the conclusive scientific results to guide us and the in-depth knowledge to inform us, but to succeed, we need to mobilize a communitywide sense of urgency to give every child a fair start in life through maximum brain development.

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A few weeks ago, I talked to Gov. Bill Haslam about toxic stress, brain development and epigenetics. Those may not have been my exact words, but in asking for the state's help to fight Memphis' intractable poverty, I was discussing them nonetheless. In the meeting in the governor's office in Nashville, I mapped out the city of Memphis' Blueprint for Prosperity, a 10-year plan to reduce Memphis' current 25.4 percent poverty rate to the state's rate of 16.5 percent.

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Memphis Mayor A C Wharton recently talked to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam about toxic stress, brain development, and epigenetics. The mayor may not have used those actual words, but in asking for the state's help to fight Memphis' intractable poverty, he was discussing them nonetheless.

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