Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Pulitzer Prize for Giving Voice to the Voiceless

 I sent a note of congratulations last week to Eli Saslow of the Washington Post after he won a Pulitzer Prize for “Explanatory Reporting” for a series he wrote about people and communities struggling with hunger and utilizing food stamps.  

His response to my email was characterized by both humility and genuine appreciation for what we have worked so hard to achieve through our No Kid Hungry campaign:  If, in some small way, the stories have helped advance your great, important work, then that is worth far more than any prize. I'm grateful to get to write about the problems you all are working to solve.”

If you don’t have time to read the series you can get a good sense for its power from The Washington Post’s one page letter to the Pulitzer committee nominating Saslow.  See @

In talking to his Post colleagues about the people he wrote about and who “I owe the most to” he explained: “They’re the ones who take the huge risk. It’s a huge act of courage to have somebody call, who you don’t know, from out of town, and say that they want to come be with you constantly in sort of, you know, every corner of your life in this moment where things are usually not going well and there’s a lot at stake. That’s an incredible thing to ask of people, and yet they say yes, and I wonder a lot about that because I’m not sure I’d be the person who said yes. And I think it’s because people are so — they really crave to be understood and they want to know that what they’re dealing with matters. And I think our journalism should validate that and it should take good care of the trust they’re giving us to come into their lives.”

Saslow is 31 years old and hopefully represents a new generation of reporters committed to bearing witness and giving voice to the voiceless. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

“The key to the future is finding the positive stories and getting people to tell them to each other.”

Last week I was in New York to speak at a social entrepreneurship forum that took its name, Go Big or Go Home, from one of the articles I’d written about our No Kid Hungry strategy.  As I was walking toward the event at an NYU auditorium on Washington Square I passed another building, the Judson Memorial Church that had a quote on the wall that caught my eye. It was from Pete Seeger, the folk singer who died earlier this year at the age of 94, and one of my long-time heroes.  It said: “The key to the future is finding the positive stories and getting people to tell them to each other.” 

The nature of songwriting is to take an experience or idea and boil it down to its essence and Seeger’s words did exactly that. I stopped and scribbled them down because his sentiments felt like a wonderful reinforcement of exactly what we’ve been doing: at the NGA summit in Detroit, with our new partner Good Housekeeping, in our videos about school breakfast, in our recruiting for Dine Out at the Restaurant Leadership Conference in Arizona, on our Facebook page and Twitter feed, in the best practices that Community Wealth Partners share with clients, and in so many other ways.

We’re not just finding the positive stories, we’re creating them. But Seeger’s point is that is not enough. People are inspired by learning of positive outcomes, what works, knowing a problem is solvable, and by those who hold themselves accountable for solving it. Small steps forward play as valuable a role as the large. And so we must continue to find ways to not just create or find the positive stories but also be about “getting people to tell them to each other.”

  By the way, Judson Memorial Church is worth checking out whenever you are in NY. It was built in 1892 and financed by John D Rockefeller, designed by legendary architect Stanford White and includes 17 spectacular stained glass windows by the master of that art form, John LaFarge.  It pursues a comprehensive social justice agenda. And it quotes Pete Seeger.