My, How Things Change

When Secretary of State Colin Powell said on CNN that long-term developmental assistance for the tsunami-struck region would be required by the United States, I stopped in my tracks. When he went on to say that food insecurity leads to civil instability and that this is a security issue for the United States, I sat down and listened.

These two points were pieces of messages that Bread for the World and Church World Service , for whom I was communications director for 12 years, attempted to inject into nearly every humanitarian crisis for the past twenty years. Often to little effect, if at all.

We labored to say this about the famine in Ethiopia in the eighties. We said it about Kampuchea after Pol Pot. We said it about Somalia, which eventually proved the point in spades by dissolving into anarchy that still leaves this nation in the Horn of Africa without a fully functioning government, and a potential haven for terrorist training.

So, you can imagine how these words sounded like music to my ears. The message has taken hold and is now being articulated by the Secretary of State with precision and effect. It will, hopefully, stick. I said to my spouse, ” My, how things change!”

There is so much embedded in this message that if we really hear it and act upon it, it can change how we deal with conflict resolution and alleviating poverty. It is proactive. It is solution-based. It is preventative.

It addresses the economic dynamics that leave the poor outside the mainstream economy by providing them with resources to develop sustainable small businesses and cooperatives. It is rooted in creating opportunity, not in using the military to keep people down. It mitigates unrest by including people in self-development.

All of that in this simple soliloquy by Secretary Powell, you say? Yes, I say with hope.

My, how things have changed.

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