A True Story

Center of Concern | Wed, Oct 29, 2008

By Maria Riley, OP
Source: Center of Concern

In the first years of the founding of the Center of Concern, our office was located on a well-kept residential street in northeast Washington, DC.  The staff was busy establishing the Center as a voice for social justice in the U.S. and across the world.  No small task for three or four people.

One day our next door neighbor, Bill, came over, knocked on the door and asked “Center of Concern? What are you concerned about?”  With great enthusiasm the energetic staff member said, global development, poverty, human rights, population, women’s rights, anti-racism and on and on.   Bill listened intently and then responded, “I know one thing you’re not concerned about.”  Astonished, the staffer asked what?  “Your neighbors,” replied Bill.  Then he pointed out that the grass had not been cut, the yard raked and other messy areas in the yard that needed attention. It was a lesson to be learned.  And we did keep up the yard ever after.

The same question could be asked of our candidates:  “What are you concerned about?”  They would reel off their list—the economy, health care, Iraq, jobs, climate change, energy, trade, Wall Street, the housing market, taxes, losing the election and on and on.  But there is one issue they apparently don’t care about—people in poverty.

Yes, they do care about the middle class, the business class, even Wall Street bankers,  Joe the plumber and hockey Moms, but they have had little or nothing to say about the 37.3 million people in poverty in the U.S.  Or the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty globally.  And that figure does not include those living in simple poverty globally.

What kind of knocking on the door will it take to bring this huge, vulnerable—and politically invisible--population into view.  What will jar the consciousness and the conscience of our political leaders to this extraordinary human need?  What policy prescriptions are they planning to address the need in the U.S.?  Have they even thought about policy positions to advance in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, or the World Trade Organization; or with the G8 industrial nations to begin to alleviate global poverty?  Are they even aware how U.S. policies in these institutions actually create barriers to countries moving out of poverty?   Our yard, both front and back, is in need of a lot of attention.  Will we clean it up now and keep it that way ever after?

For more information on domestic and global poverty see our Election 2008 project: