Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

An Insider/Outsider President

    As the first African-American President of the United States, Barack Obama is in a position not available to previous Presidents. Time and again, he has shown a remarkable ability to portray both an outsider and an insider, something which, in the opinion of organizing guru, Marshall Ganz, is essential to mobilizing people for change (mentioned in his organizing course found here).  This ability, a by-product of his rather unique background as much as his rhetorical skill, allows Mr. Obama to both portray an insiders’ understanding of the situation, and criticize it as an outsider unencumbered by the sins of those trapped inside the system.

  In his recent speech in Ghana, Mr. Obama used this ability to directly address an issue that most politicians nimbly tip-toe around: the issues of aid in Africa and the necessity of Africa stepping up.

“Now, it's easy to point fingers and to pin the blame of these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict. The West has often approached Africa as a patron or a source of resources rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.”

He went on to praise Ghana for its adherence to democratic ideals and for being an example of “good governance” for the rest of Africa. Something he names as “the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places…, the change that can unlock Africa's potential… [and] a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.

    This should not be taken to mean that the West will not, or should not, continue to support Africa, but “[a]id is not an end in itself. The purpose of foreign assistance must be creating the conditions where it's no longer needed” and in implementing it “… I can promise you, America will be with you every step of the way.”

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must highlight the similarities between this call and the bill Bread has been advocating for the last few months, H.R. 2139. This bill initiates foreign aid reform, something which must be a priority both for America and for African nations, such as Ghana. We need our aid to be overseen to ensure it goes to the proper places, and we need to work with those who receive it in order to make sure it is used effectively in areas where it is most needed.

    Africa must step up, take responsibility for some of its actions, and make changes of its own; concurrently, the developed world must show a willingness to stop seeing aid as “an end to itself” by changing its aid practices and working more closely with the developing world. We currently have a President with the ability to stand up and call attention to the poor practices in Africa, yet also the willingness to work with them to create a more promising future. This is the time to act, the time to motivate our legislators, and the time to use this opportunity to change the world.

    Has your Congressman signed on to co-sponsor the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act? Find out here. If not call them up, and ask for co-sponsorship in order to reform the way that aid is being spent, for the sake of Africa and America as well.


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