Saturday, August 13, 2011
Poverty: A Call To Conscience
On Friday, Aug. 12, DSA Honorary Chair and Tavis Smiley brought their "Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience" to St. Andrew AME Church in Memphis. Beginning at a Native American reservation in Wisconsin, the two have been traveling across the country to bring attention to the growing poverty afflicting the unemployed and the underemployed during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Tavis Smiley spoke about the failures of politicians, of both parties, to address the causes and consequences of poverty. He singled out President Obama for failing to use the mandate he was given to address the growing poverty among all races, particularly African-Americans. Smily noted that the President has failed to even mention poverty in any of his State of the Union speeches, and that it was the President, not the Republicans, who offered to make Social Security cuts party of the negotiations over raising the national debt ceiling.
Cornel West emphasized that Obama needs to be encouraged to stand up the the corporate elites and to push a more progressive agenda to redistribute wealth to alleviate the suffering of the poor. Noting the criticism that some in the African-American community have leveled against he and Smiley for attacking President Obama, West sought to encourage the black community to help Obama become a great president by pushing him to make the welfare of the working class and the working poor his priority, not Wall Street and the corporate rich.
Both emphasized that their intention was to help Obama get reelected by reminding him of his campaign promises and pushing him to be bolder and to take the moral high ground to focus on poverty and the struggles of the working class of all races.