No foolin’ – we’re living in crazy political times

1996 Offering of Letters cover. Bread for the World.

By Stephen H. Padre

Bread has stood by children for a long time, and we’re still at it.

Twenty years ago, in 1996, Bread’s Offering of Letters was titled “Elect to End Childhood Hunger.” It was an election year. There was a Clinton in the White House – Bill – and he was running for re-election. Two years earlier, in the midterm elections, the Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America,” had taken control of both the House and Senate.

In the 1996 election, Bill Clinton won a second term, and the Republicans retained control of the House and Senate.

Two decades ago, those seemed like such heady days, but also a politically turbulent time.

Today, in 2016, another Clinton – Hillary – is vying for the White House. Congress is still controlled by the Republicans, in opposition to another Democratic president. And when we thought things couldn’t get any more outlandish politically, a billionaire businessman from New York with no political experience is making a serious run for the presidency, while control of Congress largely goes unnoticed.

Since 1996, while the presidency has switched hands and parties a few times as has a chamber or two in Congress, Bread has remained concerned about hunger among children. Both this year’s and last year’s Offerings of Letters have been focused on children. The 2015 Offering of Letters focused on domestic child nutrition programs, such as school breakfast and lunch feeding programs. The 2016 Offering of Letters has an international focus – the nutrition and health of mothers and children overseas.

In 1996, Bread latched on to the congressional elections and made its signature campaign about what potential law makers could do for children who were hungry. Bread’s president, Rev. David Beckmann (who took that office in 1991), wrote in his introductory letter in the Offering of Letters kit: “More than one in four children in the United States is hungry or at risk of hunger. Please, help us make childhood hunger a significant issue in this year’s pivotal elections for Congress.”

This year, we are doing the same things, but in a different way. Bread is engaged in this year’s election, which is also considered pivotal, given the candidates running for president, and given the fact that we believe we can end hunger by 2030. Bread wants to raise hunger as an election issue among the presidential candidates during the primary elections and will continue to do that during the general election campaign. Bread wants the next Congress and president to make ending hunger a priority for our country.

Separately, but at the same time, Bread has an Offering of Letters that is focused on children again – children and their caregivers overseas.

This is characteristic of Bread. We are Bread for the World. While presidential administrations come and go, and while Congress changes hands, Bread remains steady. While the country may waver with its domestic and international concerns, Bread for the World keeps its focus on both, on the world at large. We are political because we engage with the federal government, but we remain nonpartisan. We don’t stand for any particular candidates, but we stand with children. And mothers. And women. And men. All people who are hungry. We care about people who are hungry both in the United States and overseas.

So, as we focus mostly on our own country and go about choosing new leaders in the year of our Lord 2016, let us remember – again – children who are hungry, just as we did in 1996. Let’s prevent them and all children from inheriting an even more politically turbulent world 20 years from now.

Stephen H. Padre is managing editor for Bread for the World.

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