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ONE Vote launched to make global poverty issues key to presidential race


’Preach the Gospel every day; if necessary use words’

The ONE Campaign’s commitment to make poverty history was stepped up June 11 when a mass media and mobilization effort to make global poverty a fundamental aspect of the 2008 presidential race was launched at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The new initiative, “ONE Vote ’08: Saving Lives, Securing our Future,” promises to energize presidential candidates and ONE members “to make the fight against global poverty a key foreign policy and security issue at the 2008 ballot box.”

Former Senators Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), co-chairs of ONE Vote, addressed a standing-room-only crowd at a news conference that marked the launch, while inbound and outbound satellite links connected a network of supporters nationwide.

The highly acclaimed African Children’s Choir, many of whom have lost one or both parents through the devastation of war, famine and disease, brought its singing and dancing expertise to the event, which was attended by more than 250 political activists, faith leaders and media representatives.

In his welcoming remarks, the Rev. Paul Abernathy, St. Mark’s rector, said, "In the name of the God, the greater power, I believe in, I invite us -- each and all -- to take an active part to alleviate, if not eliminate the poverty that is the daily and excruciating experience of so many of our sisters and brothers in our common human family.

“It’s alright to pray, but after a while, we have to get up off of our knees and do something. One Vote ’08 is prayer in action.”

In a statement released to the media, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori expressed her support for the ONE Vote launch, calling it “an ambitious effort to make global health and extreme poverty top foreign-policy priorities in the 2008 presidential election.” She acknowledged that “Episcopalians, like people of faith across the United States, are prepared to play an active role in ONE Vote in their congregations and communities.”

“The next President of the United States will have an unprecedented opportunity to lead our nation in making good on the promises it has made to eradicate extreme poverty and deadly pandemics,” she added. “Solutions are now more affordable, and closer at hand, than ever before. Winning the fight against deadly poverty and disease is essential to meeting one of the central global challenges of our time: building a more prosperous, secure and peaceful world for all God’s people.”

Alexander Baumgarten, international policy analyst in the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, said the ONE Campaign’s decision to hold today’s event in St. Mark’s Episcopal Church “underscores the critical role that Americans of faith play in creating the political momentum to make fighting global poverty a centerpiece of our nation’s foreign policy.”

At its 75th General Convention in June 2006, the Episcopal Church launched a grassroots partnership with ONE, called ONE Episcopalian, which seeks to rally Episcopalians -- ONE by ONE -- to the cause of ending extreme poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“ONE Vote is the most important component of that mobilization to date,” Jefferts Schori said. “I pray that all Americans will see, in ONE Vote, the opportunity for our nation to bring hope to the world and healing to the whole human family God so loves.”

Over the coming 17 months, Baumgarten said that “Episcopalians will have many opportunities to help ensure that the next American President is committed fully to U.S. leadership toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. By joining the ONE Episcopalian campaign -- a unique partnership between the Episcopal Church and ONE -- Episcopalians can join their voices with the millions of other Americans who believe that the time to make poverty history is right now.”

Baumgarten explained that U.S. leadership in the fight against deadly poverty and disease “is not just a matter of living into our nation’s historic identity as a guardian of hope and opportunity for all people, but also plays a critical role in building global security and stability.” He said that the launch of ONE Vote “demonstrates that this is not a Republican or Democratic issue, but rather an opportunity for all Americans to come together in support of a world where all people can enjoy the dignity and security God intends for them.”

Susan McCue, president of ONE, said that ONE Vote will hopefully change millions of lives for the better. “ONE is a big, bold idea that we can live in a world free of extreme poverty and that the United States, with all of its greatness, can lead the way,” said McCue, who recently returned from a trip to Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

ONE is a coalition of more than 70 of America’s leading advocacy and humanitarian organizations and more than 2.4 million people, joining together to fight global AIDS and extreme poverty. The goal of ONE is to direct an additional ONE percent of the U.S. federal budget toward providing basic needs like health, education, food and clean water to transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation in the world’s poorest countries.

McCue said it was significant that the event was held in a church “to demonstrate the importance of the faith community to the campaign.” She underscored the valuable contributions of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Debt AIDS Trade Africa (DATA), which was co-founded by U2 singer Bono, a steadfast supporter of the ONE Campaign.

Participating in the event via a live satellite link, leaders from Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina announced state launches of ONE Vote during the coming weeks.

Senator Frist has worked in clinics throughout Africa helping to secure resources for medicines and health programs. He described ONE Vote as an unprecedented campaign, that is high energy, high-tech, to engage millions of American people with the goal of elevating extreme poverty and public health issues on the national agenda “and injecting it in a more dominant place in our foreign policy.”

ONE Vote, “is a moral initiative, a charitable initiative, but it’s much more,” he said, citing the national security concerns of the U.S. “People do not go to war with people who have saved their children’s lives.”

He explained that out of the 30,000 children who die each day around the world, 20,000 of those succumb to preventable and easily treatable diseases. “Most Americans don’t really know that, and that’s our goal,” he said.

Senator Daschle opened his remarks with a quote from St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel every day; if necessary use words.”

“That in essence is our story, to preach the Gospel,” he said, noting the shared challenge of Americans to recognize the importance of hunger and disease when considering foreign policy and national security.

“Nothing is greater to national security than state stability,” he said. “Whether we succeed or not will be determined by our commitment to hunger and the eradication of disease.”

Senator Daschle shared the sobering statistics that six million children under the age of five die every year; one billion people live on less than $1 a day; a child dies every three seconds because of TB and malaria; and 77 million don’t even enter a school.

“Through the extraordinary challenges that we now have in this world today, it is incumbent upon all of us to recognize that this must be a key part of American foreign policy and national security,” he said.

Actress Ashley Judd, humanitarian ambassador for global for YouthAIDS, an international health initiative to raise awareness and combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, was unable to attend for health reasons.

In her place, Actress Connie Britton, who four years ago worked on a documentary in Ethiopia highlighting the plight of AIDS orphans, described One Vote as “an opportunity to deepen the unifying process of our election.”

She said there is always the opportunity during election time for the nation to become divided, “but we don’t; we stay American ... so in fact the American electoral process is a unifying one. It reminds us that throughout all our differences and varying hopes and concerns, we are actually ’united states.’”

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,” she said. “These are American values, and values that can make us truly proud as voters.”

Other speakers included Jack Oliver, Republican strategist and co-chair of ONE; Christian activist, author and pastor Brian McLaren; and Nurse Karen Sichinga, deputy director of the Churches Health Association of Zambia.

“I am here to thank America for saving lives in Africa through the Global Fund and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief,” said Sichinga, who lost both her brothers to AIDS. “Today, because of America’s generosity, others will not have that same loss. I am here to join with the ONE Campaign, with people of faith, because together we can win the fight against AIDS and extreme poverty.”


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