This post is part of a series on childhood poverty in the United States in partnership with Save the Children and Julianne Moore. Moore leads the organization's Valentine's Day campaign, through which cards are sold to support the fight against poverty in the U.S. To learn more or to purchase the cards, click here.
As goes Hollywood, so goes the Nation's capitol; and when it comes to shining a spotlight on the most urgent health and security crises on the planet, that's usually a good thing. It is a hallmark of our country's strength that so many of the most successful people in the entertainment industry get involved in drawing attention to war-torn and poverty-stricken places far from here. I witnessed, firsthand, Bono's power of persuasion at the G-8 summit meeting in Scotland in 2005 when I attended as a communications advisor to President Bush. Bono shaped the debate about the amount of aid that the G-8 nations would contribute to provide food, medicine and development funds to Africa. And for all of the public's disdain for the Federal Government these days, our presidents - democrat and republican -- have used the power of the American Presidency to rally support for noble and worthy causes around the world.
While serving as communications director for the Bush White House, I was involved in a few such efforts. We worked to improve the lives of those living with AIDS in Africa, and to prevent the spread of Malaria in that country. We also drew attention to the need for health and education programs for women and girls who had suffered greatly under the Taliban. As a White House staffer, it was always a welcome assignment to spend time on universally celebrated programs such as these.
But in 15 years as a communications advisor to a governor, a president and a senator who wanted to be president, I never wrote a speech or a set of talking points about childhood poverty in America. And before anyone has a reflexively partisan reaction to that admission, let me say that I never participated in a single debate with any of my democratic counterparts on the topic, and don't recall any of the politicians I've worked for fielding challenges from their democratic rivals or counterparts about how to address the growing problem of childhood poverty, hunger and homelessness in America. In fact I don't recall a single presidential debate in this new century when the topic of childhood poverty was raised by a moderator or by either party's nominee.
Even now, at a time when poverty affects nearly one in four children in the United States, it's astonishing that a more vigorous debate isn't playing out in Washington about the best way to ensure that innocent children are not robbed of a bright future because they were too hungry to learn. Childhood poverty is a problem that spans just about every congressional district in the country, and yet it warrants very little policy discussion in the halls of congress or at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At a time when our nation's leaders could desperately use an issue to use as a bridge back across the growing partisan divide, a conversation about how to help the youngest and most vulnerable Americans avoid the life sentence of despair caused by childhood poverty seems like a rare win-win.