"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
History blesses us with moments of tremendous opportunity. These moments in time afford individuals and nations the occasion to realize destinies of greatness, to fulfill the highest potential God dreams for us, to demonstrate anew the best measure of who we are as human beings and children of God.
As a nation, we have had many such moments, and often we have risen to meet them in extraordinary ways, ways that have made this nation a beacon of hope for so many for so long.
Such a moment was upon us this week, and instead of stepping forward in hope to grasp it, we shrunk back from its challenges and the opportunity it provided to fulfill the dream that is America. A dream carried by us as a nation for the past two centuries and more.
This week, the eyes of the world, if not this country, were trained upon New York City, where people from around the globe gathered to assess our progress and renew our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight MDGs represent our best effort to strive as a global community to solve the great humanitarian crises of our time – eradicating extreme hungerand poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and other devastating diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability – all through building global partnerships to assure that development happens in ways that benefit not just the few but all humanity.
These are not idle dreams, but measurable, attainable goals that the world has the resources to achieve -- if only we have the will.
As the greatest superpower on the planet, our nation has not just the ability, not just the moral obligation, but the great and glorious opportunity to take the dream of freedom that birthed this nation and work with our sisters and brothers around the world to assure that freedom for all from poverty, disease, and despair is realized as the birthright for everyone. The opportunity to show that we are indeed a great nation – not by the standard of military and economic might, but by the standard of servanthood, the force of compassion, and the power of generosity.
History blesses us with these moments, and we let them pass at our own great peril and shame.
This week, that is what we did.
The current administration has made significant progress in debt forgiveness and in setting up opportunities for development aid like the Millennium Challenge Account. This week at the World Summit in New York, however, it shrunk back from the opportunity to exercise the best of servant leadership and lead the way in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It actively opposed the efforts of other nations to step forward and embrace those opportunities.
In the negotiations leading up to this week’s summit, the United States continually and methodically shredded the document that was signed by all United Nations member states. Under pressure from United States Ambassador John Bolton, language dedicating all nations to the eradication of global poverty, the strengthening of the United Nations as a body empowered to address global crises, and the reversal of devastating global climate change was systematically weakened or eliminated.
At one point, the U.S. demanded the elimination of all references to the Millennium Development Goals. Under considerable pressure we backed off that demand, but still we refused to live up to our twice-made promise to give 0.7% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) toward the MDGs’ achievement – the amount it would take to make them a reality by 2015. And we did this at a time when many other nations, including the United Kingdom, have re-dedicated themselves toward 0.7% GDP giving for the MDGs as a tangible reality within the next few years.
That our stinginess comes at a time when the world is looking with compassion on our own people as they dig out from the catastrophe of hurricane Katrina adds only irony to tragedy. Hurricane Katrina gave us the bitter taste of the life one-sixth of humanity struggles to survive every day – they are hungry, without access to drinkable water or proper sanitation, they have no schools, no decent medical care, and they are imprisoned by fear in the face of violence and insecurity.
Even as we rage over the ways aid is reaching our own people on the Gulf Coast, this week we actively prevented the same aid from reaching our sisters and brothers around the world who live lives of chronic desolation every day of their lives.
As we stand in their footsteps for one painful moment, we still deny them shoes.
History provides defining moments. By our actions and inactions we embrace them as blessing, or allow them to become a curse. Dedicating the tremendous resources of this great nation toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals would have written a legacy that would assure our status as a beloved world leader for generations to come.
Instead, we write a legacy not of triumph, but of shame.
There is still time to change course. Still time to turn back and embrace the claim of a higher destiny. But despite this hope, today we have little claim to supremacy – moral or otherwise -- and little cause for pride.
As children of God and as citizens of this most generous of nations, we owe humanity, our children, and the founders of this Republic more than a missed opportunity and a fearful shrinking back from this challenge. We owe the best measure of ourselves as people of freedom, generosity, and compassion.
Greatness demands nothing less. But this week, less is what we gave.
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."