“Be the change you want to see in the world.” M. Ghandi
January 20, 2009 § 1 Comment
From David Davenport
President and CEO —
(From Washington, D.C.)
Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I am back sharing my thoughts on Poverty in America. I took some time to walk the National Mall before heading over to see my friends and volunteer at DC Central Kitchen. (“Inspiring” doesn’t give enough credit to this amazing place – Happy 20th Birthday, DCCK. May the next 20 be as revolutionary.)
Now, back to my walk. I slowly wandered down the mall weaving my way through the crowd of thousands, and eventually came to an amazing place.
I found myself at the spot where 41 years ago Resurrection City was built in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue of economic justice for all Americans. As I stood there, I realized how close I was to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King gave his historic speech during the civil rights march five years earlier. To my right, past the Washington Memorial, stands the Capitol building. Today, Barack Obama takes office, and this nation welcomes its first president to be on food stamps (for a short time during his youth, he and his mother needed food stamp assistance). Like many places in this great city, I am surrounded by history, surrounded by our American story, by symbols of our great achievements, and the whispers of the challenges we still face.
I have to admit, I was hoping to stand in this spot and get a better understanding of how far we as a people have come. I am overwhelmed and I still struggle to capture the many thoughts that pass through my mind. I think about Lincoln. The American Civil War was fought to save the Union, but it was also the first war of liberation in human history. I imagine Dr. King at my left, and the first African-American president at my right, and I am inspired. I recall the words of Bishop Gregory V. Palmer who spoke last night. He said “Our eyes burn. Our American eyes burn from the bright light of possibilities. We must stand as a nation, stand close; this president must not stand alone.”
Instantly, the defeating, overwhelming challenge of ending poverty in our nation seemed achievable. It’s achievable because the difficult first step seems within our grasp. We’ve not yet been committed to stand as one nation and share a national belief that poverty, hunger and homelessness are economically, socially and morally unacceptable.
Just 25 years ago, at 18, I could have bought a six pack of beer, thrown it in the front seat of my car, popped open the lid and enjoyed a cold one as I drove down the street – not violating any laws. A group of committed citizens formed Mother’s Against Drunk Driving and today, not only has the law changed, but so has our culture. It’s wrong and unacceptable to drink and drive.
Soon it will be unacceptable to allow people to live a tragic, inhumane existence in a land of plenty. Step one is to embrace, and give voice to, the belief that poverty in America is unacceptable. Be the change you want to see in the world. Live the change you feel our nation needs to accept. If we can do that – we’re almost there. The rest is just heavy lifting.