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The lasting power of bearing witness

I’m just back from Seattle where I gave the keynote at a Gates Foundation conference cross sector collaboration in education.  There were attendees from across the country but with a heavy concentration from three states: Colorado, Louisiana and Kentucky.  They wanted to hear about lessons from the success of the No Kid Hungry campaign that might be applicable to their ambitions for growth and greater impact.

During the Q&A, a woman named stood up, and said:  “My name is Beverly Lawrason. I just have a comment that I feel needs to be made.”  Uh oh. Everyone kind of held their breath. “I’m the Assistant Superintendent for our school district. Five years ago we desperately needed help for the hungriest kids in our community. Almost everyone turned us down. Those of you in this room can’t possibly imagine how bad it was.  Our school district is St Bernard Parish in Louisiana and we were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.  We didn’t know where to turn. Then one day a bus pulled up and all of these people from Share Our Strength got off.   Thanks to them our kids got to eat and go back to school.”  

I shared that David Bradley who owns the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal was one of the people who got off that bus. Jonathan Alter at Newsweek was another. So were Jim and Karen Ansara, numerous donors, and dedicated members of our board. They were there on a Share Our Strength Hinges of Hope trip to bear witness.  And we left more of an impression than I could have ever guessed.

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