Speaking of Pool Safety

As has been widely reported, the American Red Cross has recently received criticism for a water safety poster we produced. Anyone who has seen the poster in question knows that the content is clearly unacceptable, and I want to sincerely apologize for its production and distribution. It shouldn't have happened, and we are taking measures to ensure it never happens again.

We removed the poster from our website and our mobile Swim App. We have also reached out to each of the aquatics facilities which received the poster and requested they remove it.

In addition, I have assembled a team, led by individuals with diversity and inclusion expertise, to help ensure our materials are culturally-sensitive going forward. As one of the nation's oldest humanitarian organizations, we are committed to diversity and inclusion in all that we do, every day.

It would be truly unfortunate if this controversy takes away from our original intent to keep children safe in and around the water. For more than 100 years, the Red Cross has taught Americans to swim. To mark that milestone, in 2014 we launched our Aquatics Centennial Campaign to reduce the drowning rate in 50 high-risk communities and teach at least 50,000 more children and adults to swim.

In Los Angeles, Gloria, a single mother and low income parent raising four children, was eligible to enroll her children at no cost in the Red Cross Learn-to-Swim program. Today, her children have become part of a swim team and one is planning to become a Junior Lifeguard. Gloria feels at ease knowing her children will be kept busy during the summer with the pool a close distance from their home, and she feels safe with them being in the water.

In Birmingham, Alabama, Beverly brings her chair to the pool to sit and watch over her great grandchildren getting swim lessons through the Red Cross Centennial program. While she never learned to swim, she wants her great grandchildren to have a safe experience around the water. She told the Red Cross, "Too many people that I have known have drowned over the years, and as long as you offer this program, I will be here!"

This July 4 holiday weekend, many families like Gloria's and Beverly's will enjoy being in and around the water. Despite our unacceptable mistake, I sincerely hope that renewed attention is given to the importance of learning to swim and being safe around the water.

Gail J. McGovern

President and CEO
American Red Cross