As I begin to write this, I am watching the inauguration of the 44th president, Barack Hussein Obama. It is a day of pride and celebration in a moment of shared vision, best articulated by our President.
I don’t believe in the tooth fairy, and Santa Claus did not come to my house. I also don’t believe that President Obama, alone, can and will change our country. But it is fitting we take time to celebrate the progress our country has made, represented by the election of this particular man, this president.
What wonderful symbolism, that his public inauguration took place on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
The President’s speech resonated with his unabashed praise of values we espouse, and for which CFJC members and allies work year round:
- Equity: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,”
Declaration of Independence
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still…”
President Barack Obama
The President spoke of the elements of a society based on equity:
- Fair and Just immigration policy
- The challenge of Climate change
- Care for those of us in need
- Gay rights
- Equal pay for women
All of these represent the change that is needed to support a new kind of food system. And while CFJC cannot and does not address all of these issues, the intersection of climate change for example, with food production is undeniable.
For that reason among many, and because equity runs through all of the President’s prepared remarks and issue areas, CFJC partners with a wide variety of community organizations to effect the kind of change that will create the world in which we all deserve to live.
All of which makes for an especially interesting New Year.
We have waited a long time to hear a president talk about our shared values. Already, commentators are arguing about the President’s “liberal” agenda, and how he could have demonstrated true leadership by talking about compromise and working with the opposition party, and more general aspirations.
You have to ask yourself, why?
The November election was about choices; the choice to endorse government for mega corporations and the mega rich, versus, government for the people. Election results were clear. The era of Gordon Gekko, greed, and profits above all else is over—if we want it to be over.
It is therefore only right and proper that in his inaugural remarks the President reassert the promises made during his campaign.
And it is past time that we reject the business of petty partisan politics that has had a stranglehold on Congress for years. In the words of our President:
“For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall…
“My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction. And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service…
“…You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.”
That is leadership—and a call to action consistent with our own Taking Back Our Food System call to action.
Christina and I will be leaving for D.C. to meet with advocates and groups from across the country at the second annual GOAT convening. In preparation thereof, CFJC is circulating a survey to solicit your thoughts on how our work will be shaped by your values and vision.
This is especially important now that Congress slipped a seriously flawed 2012 Farm Bill extension in with the Fiscal Cliff legislation passed December 31, 2012 —January 1, 2013.
Please take a moment to complete the CFJC survey, and take up the President’s call to action. With our help, you will not be alone.
Over the past twelve months CFJC has expanded its membership ten-fold, and now works in partnership with groups and coalitions across the country and in our nation’s capital—the better to effect food and related policies that are best for local communities, farmers, food and farm workers, and businesses.
Along with you, together we are building a new kind of movement that is both timely and powerful.
Finally, I don’t want to start the New Year without mentioning the December 8th People’s Food Justice Summit held in Oakland. The Summit is a benchmark for that new kind of movement, building on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ella Baker and Rosa Parks, David Hilliard and Huey P. Newton; and the many people who have struggled for equity over two centuries.
On behalf of the CFJC staff and volunteers, thank you for your personal commitment to the health and well-being of communities across the country, and a special thanks to all of you who contributed to the CFJC end-of-the-year fund appeal.
For all the rest of you, if you are able, please consider clicking here to make a contribution to the Community Food and Justice Coalition, so that we can continue working on your behalf.
Y. Armando Nieto
Community Food and Justice Coalition