Dear Friends and Colleagues:
This is one of the more difficult messages I have tried to write for CFJC. Over the past four weeks I have repeatedly contacted Courtney to say that I wasn’t happy with what I’d written, and ask her to wait another week to send the message out. The problem is that what I’ve written is either angry, or whining, or just plain negative. And that is not what I need to convey on behalf of CFJC.
I suspect I am not the only one on an emotional roller coaster because of the political climate surrounding but certainly not limited to the presidential election.
One thing seems clear. On November 9th somewhere between 37-40 million voters are going to be very unhappy with the outcome of the election. Perhaps unhappy enough to make us think of the eight years of the Obama presidency as “the good old days.”
Time was that no matter who won the elections, once the ballots were counted, the country was expected to “come together” and support, or at the very least accept, the new incoming administration. And that we did.
However, I think the disrespect that President Obama received during his eight years and especially with regard to his latest Supreme Court nominee this last year does not bode well for whoever is sworn in at the Capitol in 2017. This is not negative thinking. I believe it is acceptance of how our political system has devolved. So, what can we do about it? Better yet, what are we going to do?
I for one have always believed that our system of government works best when one party is not in control of all branches of government. We need diverse points of view to reflect the wide variety of individuals and communities across the country. But we also need our elected officials to act like grown-ups, and to actually govern.
As a country, we will be tested in the coming weeks, months, and years. We have to do better than we have done in the past.
For example, after the horrific events of 9/11, we had an opportunity to provide enlightened leadership in a new millennium. When all across the planet people were saying, “I am American,” we could have encouraged and accepted those sentiments, and helped usher in a world order of peace and understanding as shoulder to shoulder, we all eschewed violence of any sort.
We blew that one.
Let’s not blow it again.
History will show that we allowed inherent racism to stymie again and again the efforts of our first black president. And, that we were not even subtle in allowing it to happen.
In November we will either have the first woman president, or a man who has never held elective office become the oldest person ever elected to the presidency. As I said before, no matter who wins there will be tens of millions of people at the very least unhappy with the outcome.
Perhaps not since the civil war has the country been so divided.
It is not our job to bring the country together. Whatever the outcome of all the elections, it will be the job of the successful candidates to make sure that governance is their main priority. We should hold them accountable, and we have the apparatus and network to make sure that happens. The candidates themselves provided the infrastructure with their endless appeals for funding and support.
No, it is not our job to bring the country together. We have a much more important job.
It is our job to provide leadership. We can no longer whine and complain, and wait for elected leaders to lead. We can do so by continuing to engage in the activities that bind us together.
We lead by example.
One way we can do so is by continuing the work we are all doing around food. Food is the thing that we all have in common. I continue to be amazed at how simple it is to work with people in communities anywhere when we come together with food.
We still have a lot work to do, and our successes can show our electeds what our priorities are, and how working with one another is the best way to address the challenges before us.
You already know those challenges:
- 40% of food is wasted in the U.S.
- Millions of children and families are food insecure.
- Obesity and type II diabetes are reaching epidemic proportions.
- and on and on, in communities across the country.
All of these challenges provide opportunities for our communities to re-prioritize and re-define how community health is defined. It is absolutely clear to anyone working in the field, food banks and charity efforts alone cannot adequately address the need.
Lori Silverbush’s “A Place at the Table” should be required viewing in every community.
Politics notwithstanding, we haven’t seen the worst in store for our communities and our families yet.
While politicians argue about whether or not climate change is real, communities around the world are being pounded by storms, and farmers in the U.S. struggle to make it one more year.
This year we have all been asked to step up with finances, or to volunteer on political campaigns, or to take someone to the polls, and to vote. But that is just one significant, but small part of what we have to do to deserve our democratic republic.
We have to provide the leadership we need to address the challenges of climate change and nutrition, and the health of our families and communities. Because despite the television commercials, the slick advertising materials, and constant barrage of electronic messaging from political leaders, seemingly, our political and financial sectors just don’t seem to be up to the challenges. At a time when we need giants, but would just settle for grown-up adults, we have gridlock and a level of greed not seen since Jesus chased the Pharasees out of the temple in Jerusalem.
From time to time I see a phrase that graffiti artists tag on walls in communities and cities and towns across the country. It says, “We are the people we have been waiting for.”
Once we have voted, while the politicians have one more chance to prove they deserve our support, we can continue to be the leaders we have been waiting for.
In the area of food we have mechanisms that make our job relatively straight forward. If we are up to the challenges.
With regard to public policy, the Farm Bill will be coming up for reauthorization in 2018, and already groups and coalitions in D.C. and in cities around the country are working to see that public policy continues to evolve for the benefit of farmers, communities and families. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan introduced the Urban Agriculture Act as a major piece of legislation that will likely be part of the final product.
CFJC staff, steering committee, members and partners are now seasoned participants in the process. The GOAT process, Good Food for All, and other efforts bring together partners across sectors to ensure equity and justice in public policy going forward.
We can do this.
We look forward to working with you through this election, and afterwards to help make our children proud of the world we are leaving to them.
What say you?
It is a wonderful thing of which to be part.
Armando Nieto, Executive Director