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Lincoln would urge you to write for change

By William Lambers - Guest Columnist | Jun 12, 2020

As our country faces enormous challenges, let’s be inspired by what Abraham Lincoln said of America’s noble purpose: “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Lincoln spoke those words during the Gettysburg address of 1863 when America’s survival as a nation was in peril during the Civil War. The government “by the people” was saved for future generations. It was saved for us.

It’s vital you remember this as we face many challenges today including a pandemic, racial injustice, hunger, poverty, and issues of war and peace. Your voice is needed to make change on all these social justice issues.

In America you don’t have to sit on the sidelines and be a spectator of events. You can speak up and influence them in a positive way. The first amendment of the Constitution protects free speech and the right to petition the government. All it takes is using your pen, or your keyboard, and writing to Congress.

With racism harming America, citizens can write to their representative about passing laws for justice and equality. As the Coronavirus spreads you can write to your elected officials about supporting hospitals and economic relief for those who have lost jobs because of closings.

Former senator and presidential candidate George McGovern told me that as little as eight people writing to a representative can get them to take action. McGovern told our group of activists against hunger back in 2008 that we could make a difference using our collective voice.

With the injustice of hunger growing at home and abroad, letters to Congress are vital to increase support for food aid. The UN World Food Program says millions of people are at risk of starvation worldwide.

Your voice can save them. Bread for the World routinely organizes citizens to write to their representatives urging them to fight hunger.

With global hunger fast escalating because of the Coronavirus pandemic, Catholic Relief Services has started the Lead the Way on Hunger campaign. Citizens are asked to write to their elected officials about increasing funding for the Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole programs that fight world hunger.

You can write letters to Congress and also letters to newspapers to reach other citizens. The diplomat Albert Gallatin wrote letters to the National Intelligencer magazine that were published in 1846. Gallatin’s letters urged peace with Great Britain during a dispute over the Oregon Territory. His words for peace helped reduce tensions and prevent war.

Back in 2002 General Andrew Goodpaster told me about letters he wrote to Congress and the Washington Post, urging ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Goodpaster was a determined advocate for reducing nuclear weapons whose legacy has inspired others to continue the struggle.

A group of students, called the CTBTO youth group, today advocates for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Its members letters appear in newspapers supporting the treaty.

A group of students today could also write their representatives in Congress about the injustices that exist. Racism, climate change, hunger, poverty and nuclear proliferation are some of the many issues that need action on the part of our leaders.

All citizens can take the first step toward making change. It all starts simply by doing something you did every day in school: writing.

That is what Lincoln would want to see. His Gettysburg Address was under 300 words, but was powerful and still is with us. Your own 300 words can make a difference too by writing to Congress or a newspaper about social justice and peace.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program and Catholic Relief Services on the book Ending World Hunger. His writings haven been published by USA Today, History News Network, Baltimore Sun and many other news outlets.

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