(Originally published in Bread Blog, August 23, 2007)
By Elaine VanCleave and Carlos Navarro
"Preach the Gospel every day, and if necessary use words," Sen. Tom Daschle told participants packed into St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, at the launch of the ONE Vote 08 rally in the nation's capital on a pleasant afternoon in June.
In case you didn't recognize that statement, it came from one of the most quotable personalities in history, St. Francis of Assisi.
And it's true that politicians and other public figures are fond of quoting St. Francis. But Sen. Daschle's decision to bring the venerable saint into this event is much appreciated. Many of us often get caught in the "mechanics" of social justice and forget that our motivation is to do the work in the light of the Gospel.
There is another saying from St. Francis that applies in this case: "It is no use walking to preach unless our walking is our preaching."
Which brings us to the rally itself. It has been almost three months since ONE launched the ONE Vote 08 campaign with the purpose of ensuring that all the candidates (whether Democrat, Republican or independent) make global health and extreme poverty foreign policy priorities of their campaigns in the 2008 presidential election. And thanks to ONE activists around the country, almost everywhere a candidate has spoken during the past few weeks, he or she has had to discuss how to address the problem of global poverty (See ONE blog).
We intended to write this blog post several weeks ago but time got away from us.
Anyway, we think it is still very timely to share fond memories of the rally. After all, we played hooky from the Bread for the World National Gathering just so we could go to this event.
On that day, St. Mark's was bursting at the seams, not only with people but with a level of energy that we can only describe as "electric hope." And why not? Several key high-level operatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties were present, not only to endore the goals of ONE Vote 08 but to lead the effort in making global poverty and disease a key topic of discussion during the presidential campaigns.
There were other celebrities and very important people at the rally, including the actress Connie Britton, who once starred in the TV sitcom Spin City, and more recently as the mom in the drama Friday Night Lights.
Ms Britton reminded us, in this time of fierce partisan politics, that ending hunger and poverty are American values that unify us all. She described ONE Vote as "an opportunity to deepen the unifying process of our elections." She said, as Americans, "in whatever party, we can unite with each other and with people around the world in our dedication to a world without hunger, without poverty, without these treatable and preventable diseases, and without suffering. These are American values that can truly make us proud as voters."
Pastor Brian McLaren's remarks were especially moving, particularly his comments about the transforming experience of meeting face to face the people whom we help. He said, "Something happens when you actually encounter people and they stop being a statistic and start being a neighbor." Wow! How often do we quote grim statistics when speaking about ONE? The figures are staggering, can be quite overwhelming, and sometimes, even paralyzing.
But, in that very room, just moments before Pastor McLaren (pictured at left) spoke, the African Children's Choir had performed. This spirited group of children are all orphans from Central Africa, children who represent the statistics. When the pastor spoke, we thought of these children, who are indeed our neighbors, as the reason why we will follow his lead and ask our presidential candidates "again and again. What are you going to do for our neighbors?"
That’s what The ONE Campaign is all about: to move our society to take common responsibility for solving the problems of global poverty and disease. St. Francis said it so eloquently: Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.[Note: The picture of the statue of St. Francis was taken outside the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Rancho de Taos, N.M.)