Saturday, November 8, 2008

Letter from Share Our Strength

An email from Share Our Strength:

Although the election results were widely predicted by polls and pundits, it was nonetheless striking to watch and absorb America’s new reality at the moment the television networks made it official at 11:00 p.m. last night.

The election not only made history, it set the stage for you and me to make history too.

A community organizer has become President-elect. For the first time a President of the United States, whose mom relied on food stamps, will personally understand the critical value of the work you’ve done through Share Our Strength and other nonprofit organizations.

Regardless of one’s personal politics it will be hard not to feel a sense of new beginnings, or get caught up in the excitement of a new president, new priorities, and new appointments from cabinet and ambassadors to judges and generals. But what about the rest of us? What about what Harry Truman called the highest office in the land: that of citizen?

The idealism that inspires us to believe anything is possible will be short lived if translating it into reality is left to the new president alone. Our ability to solve some of the most challenging issues we face does not depend only on a new occupant of the White House. It depends on a new kind of citizenship too.

Hunger in America is a good example. The President-elect recently announced that a top priority will be the ending of childhood hunger in America by 2015, the very goal established by Share Our Strength over the last 2 years. Federal policy matters enormously. But so does its implementation at the local level. That often depends on active citizens and robust, effective, well led civic organizations.

Many kids in America who are hungry today are hungry not because of the lack of food or even the lack of food assistance programs, but rather because they lack access to food assistance programs that already exist. Sometimes logistical or bureaucratic barriers prevent their participation.

For a hungry family wondering how to qualify for food stamps or summer feeding, the most powerful person in the world may not be the Commander in Chief but the local community organizer who helps them navigate the bureaucracy. Achieving the right blend of public support and private efforts is also essential to progress on other issues like nutrition education, mentoring, after school enrichment, drug and alcohol addiction, energy conservation, and environmental protection, just to name a few.

With the United States engaged in two protracted wars, constrained by massive budget deficits, and possibly facing a long recession, it will require more than our elected officials to right our course. It will take all of us. The hardest work of a great nation has always fallen to its citizens, not just its leaders.

In the days ahead the TV, internet, and newspapers will be awash with analysis and commentary about the strategies that led to electoral victory, what worked and why, the role of money and media and political organization. But there is also a deeply personal set of questions that we can only ask of ourselves: at such a precarious moment in the life of our nation, what can I be doing to make a difference? In what way might I sacrifice and serve? What strength can I share to make my country and community better?

The most powerful moments in history are those that invite us to make history too.


And here is the rest of it.

1 comment:

Diane J Standiford said...

Obama is doing his best to make this understood. His whole life is a role model for us. Like JFK he urges us to step up. He promises we will not be dismissed like Bush treated our efforts. He put the "We" in "Yes We Can" because he knows we must do it together. No problem is too big, too many, if we all take a piece and build our part of the solution.