Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Vice President Joe Biden Gives Impassioned Personal Speech on Hunger


Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech at the Global Hunger Conference yesterday to honor Howard G. Buffet and Bill Gates for their efforts in reducing global hunger. Held in the Ben Franklin Room at the U.S. Department of State, other hunger advocates and representatives from a variety of NGO’s gathered to honor Buffet and Gates.

The vice president affirmed his belief in the importance of fighting global hunger and shared a compelling story that his wife, Jill Biden, often tells people she meets.

My wife Jill tells a haunting story because it continues to haunt her—a haunting story of being in a camp and describing a meeting with a woman who made that long, long walk from Somalia’s famine zone into Kenya. She started off with two young children … but midway when she could no longer carry both of them because they were both suffering from malnutrition, she had to leave one. She had to make a literal Sofie’s choice. She had to leave a child behind, knowing that child would die.

No human being—no human being as long as any of us have the power to alter it—no human being should have to make a choice like that … . A tragedy like that is a stain on the conscience of the world.

This is the first time the vice president has given a speech on global hunger, but he made it clear to all in the room that the Obama administration was committed to preventing crises like the famine in the Horn of Africa. Biden noted that the impetus for this effort came from the president himself:

[For] Barack Obama—as my colleagues would tell you—this is a personal motivation for him. This isn’t a distant notion. This is deep. The president recognizes that it’s not enough to make sure people have enough food to make it through the day, although that is the first thing we must do. But he, like all of you, understands that we have to help take steps to prevent a crisis tomorrow. This approach benefits not only the people in those vulnerable countries, but also the security of the international system and ultimately the security of the United States.

Because we haven’t heard him speak on this topic yet, it’s encouraging to hear Vice President Biden address global hunger and food insecurity. Furthermore, as the main point-person for the White house negotiations for the federal budget, our hope is that the vice president will remember this speech as he goes to the table with members of Congress to negotiate how much poverty-focused development assistance will remain in the federal budget. Our hope is that Vice President Biden will repeat his inspiring words to his colleagues and to Congress about the importance of placing a circle of protection around the most vulnerable members of our global community:

If we do nothing, food security will loom as an even bigger threat to the future. We also know that if we act, we can make a difference. We have the science; we have the know-how; we have the capabilities. We just have to have the will.

Watch Vice President Biden’s speech below.


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