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Domestic Call to Arms
An Essay by Bill Shore

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Bill Shore
Bill Shore

Sept. 28, 2001 -- The headlines shout what our hearts already knew: the world has changed. But we're left alone to figure out what that means. Twice this week I've been told: "The issue isn't hunger and poverty anymore." How can we expect these things to be a priority when America is engaged in what the President calls the first war of the 21st century?

We must now look at things from a different perspective.

A nation rent by deep divisions between black and white, Democrat and Republican, or rich and poor is not sufficiently united. Children weakened by malnutrition or missed immunizations, by dilapidated housing and dangerous schools, are not what a nation defending its borders can afford. During peace and prosperity such conditions challenge our notion of justice.

During war they threaten our very security. Non-profit organizations addressing these issues, and the philanthropy that supports them, must not take a backseat now. We must redouble our efforts instead.

Our national leaders will focus almost exclusively on achieving victory over foreign adversaries. This does not make achieving domestic victories less relevant, but more so. Perhaps this will not be be obvious during America's initial retaliation. But as time passes, it will become our national truth.

Thousands of reservists are being called up. So, in another way, are the rest of us. A strong country, like a strong business, is one in which everyone does what he or she does best. There is a vital role for each of us in the days ahead. Whether we work in law or literacy, baking or banking, teaching or technology, there is more at stake than ever in doing it well, and in a way that reflects America's truest values.

We are blessed to be protected by men and women of uncommon bravery. What we can pledge in return is a common commitment, a universal devotion to serving others.

America is unleashing what could be the greatest demonstration of military might in our history. Pray it succeeds in securing peace. But military might cannot make a nation strong. It can only protect the strengths already existing within.

Bill Shore is founder and executive director of Share Our Strength, one of the nation's leading anti-hunger organizations, and chairman of Community Wealth Ventures, a for-profit consulting subsidiary of Share Our Strength. His most recent book is The Cathedral Within: Transforming Your Life by Giving Something Back. (Random House, 1999).