By Hope Watson
With cold hands shoved deep in my pockets and my head tipped all the way back, I spun slowly under the covering of the Jefferson Memorial. I read Thomas Jefferson’s words engraved around the dome: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Just as my footsteps reverberated off the memorial’s stone floor that first morning in Washington, D.C., so did those aged words in my mind as I stepped into Bread for the World for the first time later that day.
Our group of summer interns, an eclectic bunch made up of first-generation immigrants, Southern seminary students, and community activists, gathered to hear about how we could use our collective Christian voice to end hunger in our communities and around the world through advocacy. This was followed by an Offering of Letters to our members of Congress to raise our united concern about nutrition and poverty issues.
As I wrote, I thought again of Thomas Jefferson’s words.
If he was willing to make a pledge that solemn and momentous, his first step must have been making sure he knew what he was getting into. He did not blindly bind himself to eternal hostility without being informed about the nature of his cause. That’s when I knew this interaction with Bread was my first step in understanding the nature of my cause.
Our group finished up our time together the way a day in the nation’s capital should end – with burgers at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove, a popular restaurant a few blocks from the Capitol. Surrounded by boisterous congressional staffers blowing off steam after a long day on the Hill, I realized, like Thomas Jefferson, I was beginning to form my own pledge. That moment marked the start of shaping what would become a lasting commitment to addressing the issue of poverty globally through advocacy.
While I may not have vowed something as forceful and grand as “eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man,” I thought about how Jefferson chose that cause. He must have done it because of the propulsion of his heart, because he felt compelled to defend his cause. And then I thought about why I made my pledge and realized we had the same reasoning.
It was this very pledge that brought me back to Bread for the World a year later. In an act of honoring my commitment to this cause, I applied for a summer internship. During my first week, I was given the opportunity to participate in Bread’s signature event — Lobby Day.
I met with the offices of both senators from my home state – Missouri – to request their support of the Global Food Security Act, legislation meant to alleviate nutrition deficiencies around the world. Walking the halls where our nation’s most influential people work was empowering. Also empowering was realizing that I too had the influence to affect positive change through advocacy if I continued to pursue my commitment to that cause.
This realization was actualized when, just a few short weeks later, both the House and Senate passed the legislation I had lobbied for.
During my time at Bread for the World, I have come to understand that my call to advocacy comes from a God who not only knows my strengths but who gave them to me.
In the pews of our churches, the offices of our politicians, and the streets of our community, that same God is calling advocates “to swear eternal hostility” against the enemy and to defend justice for all of God’s people.
Advocacy was the avenue God has used to command me to raise my voice on behalf of the voiceless. With the elevation of other God-inspired voices just like mine, we can collectively bring about change.
Hope Watson is an intern in the church relations department at Bread for the World.