The following is a note I sent out to our listserv today in response to the concerns that have been shared with me from some who received our Community Ball invitations. I have great respect for those who have supported this work, and I hope the following can help explain why I believe so deeply that togetherness is the only way forward – the only way those suffering in poverty today have a real chance for a different future:
The sending of this year’s Community Ball invitations has created a bit of a stir with some of our supporters who are not happy with whom we are recognizing. We take that seriously, for we are very grateful for all who have helped us build this effort that has now served more than 150,000 children and adults. With this message, I hope to clarify why we are recognizing leaders from both sides of the aisle at this year’s gala (as we did last year and hope to do each year).
This will not be a listserv where we ask you to click on a link and support us. And it will be longer than usual, reflecting, again, how seriously I take the concerns. Even more so, it will reflect how serious I believe we need to be if we are going to move the needle in the direction of actually ending poverty for those mired in it.
By recognizing Congressman James Clyburn and Speaker Paul Ryan, we are not endorsing all of their policies. We are, however, recognizing two individuals who are addressing poverty as a central issue in our country. These two see it differently from one another but I know that they are committed to finding common ground, and so am I.
I have watched poverty grow for decades; in fact, it has grown dramatically since the War on Poverty was declared 52 years ago. That is a long time to have very little progress, and those who suffer the most need for us to be creative and determined. At A Wider Circle we have worked for the last 15 years to change this. We go hard seven days a week, 365 days a year, and we also study the issues with vigor. Yet we know we do not have all the answers. What we do know is that we will not solve this crisis divided. Crises always require all of us to come together, and poverty has proven to be no different.
That is why I believe it is wise to include people from all viewpoints in the discussion and to see if together we can come up with the best way forward. Together is the only way we will solve this crisis before too many more lives are lost and too much potential wasted. Poverty is killing thousands and thousands of our fellow Americans a year – boys and girls, men and women. They are our children and our parents; we have to see them this way if we are going to address it with real impact, for poverty is a national crisis that has endured for far too long.
The solution has to include more collaboration and more constructive debate among individuals from diverse perspectives, with action following right behind. That is the spirit of The Community Ball. It is an evening for all of us to connect and commit. I hope each of you will come, even from afar, to join with elected officials, people living in poverty, business leaders, and folks from all corners.
I understand the many different passions and opinions that exist in our country, and I respect those of you who disagree with us about the honorees.
I also believe that if we do not seek common ground and engage with others who see things differently – to find out how our shared humanity can bring about change – poverty will continue to spread and dominate the lives of those whom we meet here every day.
Poverty mandates that we find this shared humanity and lead with it, for the people we serve need for all of us to engage together.
All my best,