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Secretary of War Highlights Key to Peace

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Robert Patterson was a leading War Department official during the struggle against Nazi Germany and Japan. Under President Truman, he was elevated to Secretary of the Department.

Patterson certainly knew about war. But he also knew what was needed for peace. In January 1948, at the Save the Children annual dinner, Patterson articulated the most important foreign policy objective for America.

He said, “If we do our duty for the children overseas toward a better day it will be our best hope for security and peace for all the people of the world for days to come.” Patterson said food, clothing and schools for children had to be delivered immediately while the European recovery program, known as the Marshall Plan, took hold.

The Marshall Plan years were about more than reviving the economy of war-torn Europe; they were about bringing new hope for children. That is why the Marshall Plan era was such a great chapter in American history and a model for how our foreign policy should be conducted.

President Obama and the Congress need to follow this example and continue the tradition set forth by the Greatest Generation. Right now, what you have taking place is children withering away from malnutrition in countries that America claims are high on the priority list.

In Pakistan, low funding for the World Food Programme flood relief is creating a dangerous situation for many children. If food pipelines run empty, children will not have access to supplementary plumpy or other foods that can save them from malnutrition.

In Afghanistan, a country with a high infant mortality rate, low funding may force pipeline breaks in much-needed supplies. In Yemen, UNICEF is reporting a crisis for malnourished children suffering in the Sa’ada war zone. Similar scenarios play out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other countries.

A U.S. food ambassador is desperately needed to work at obtaining the necessary supplies to prevent deterioration of children’s nutrition level. Beyond these emergencies, there is a whole system of child feeding, rehabilitation, and education that has to be stepped up to a new level.

Children in many countries have suffered through war or long-standing poverty, or in the case of Haiti, natural disasters. What they need is a system of education which includes school feeding. This is the necessary starting point for lifting themselves and their country from ruin. It is vital not to underestimate what an improved nutrition level can mean for a child. It is important not to underestimate what learning to read in a classroom can mean for a child’s future.

In his speech, Patterson emphasized helping children as a vital part of foreign policy. He also emphasized ensuring that children receive the support they need here at home, particularly in rural areas. Today, one area where the Congress can help children is by expanding after-school and summer-feeding programs to invest in the future of our country.

There won’t be any nightly news headlines for any of these programs. But these are the initiatives that write peace and make history.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.
  • A U.S. food ambassador? Remind me, please, why fighting world hunger must be the unilateral responsibility of the USA, instead of the UN. And, in case you haven’t noticed, this is not 1947. Times have changed. For one thing, we haven’t had a Secretary of War (as in the title of your article) for the past 63 years.

    For another thing, the USA no longer has unlimited resources to spread around the globe. We can’t even properly feed our own children, must less those in other countries. According to the Census Bureau, 44 million Americans (one in seven) live below the poverty level, the largest number since tracking began half a century ago.

    Do-gooders need to get real–or would that be a contradiction in terms?

  • Obviously no country has unlimited resources. The Food Ambassador’s job wouldn’t be to bankrupt our economy helping others, but to raise awareness especially right here in the biggest economy in the world—a status that carries some responsibility, not just for moral reasons, but because, as Bill has pointed out many times, poverty and hunger on the other side of world directly affects our own national security.

    Also, without “do-gooders” like the people Bill writes about (plus people like Bill who publicize the problems of hunger throughout the world), hopes of reducing these enormous worldwide problems would shrink from meager to zilch.

  • If the goal is merely to “raise awareness,” why do we need a new high-level official of the prodigiously bloated U.S. Government, plus the staff he/she would require to support his/her heroic efforts? Aren’t celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Bono, Mia Farrow and Sean Penn already doing a bang-up job of raising awareness? Let’s leave it to rich private citizens with too much time on their hands. The last thing we need is another bureaucrat flying to and fro, hither and yon on the taxpayers’ tab, peddling the latest clichés on how to reduce “these enormous worldwide problems.”

  • Doug Hunter

    If do gooder handouts worked and evil capitalism didn’t, Africa would be booming while Asia suffered. The best thing we can do to feed the world is keep our economy booming and keep up the pace of innovation. We may not have handed every bag of food to every mouth, but without the ‘green revolution’ and our innovations in farming the world would not be able to support it’s current population. In a way we already have fed the world… now let’s solve cancer and energy.