Right Vs. Left Vs. Right Vs. Wrong

by Tai Anderson, July 28, 2016

Over the 4th of July weekend, I was sitting at the dinner table at my parents’ farm talking about my personal and professional journey from music to the business world. My mom asked,

“What do you miss most from your time in Third Day?”

I thought about it for a few minutes. I loved recording new music. I loved traveling. I loved playing over 1500 concerts all over the world. But, as I thought about my 20+ year career in music, one aspect of what I did with the band bubbled to the surface...

"It was the work I did with the One Campaign. I loved advocating for the poor and helping to motivate our audience to use their voice to speak for the voiceless. Nothing I did felt so meaningful as that.”

The very next day, I received an invitation from my friends at ONE to attend the Global Oval Summit at both the Republican and Democratic conventions. The event would bring together politicians from both political parties, journalists, and NGO leaders to discuss how the next administration would continue the fight against extreme poverty. Leaders Worth Following were gathering to find common ground around the idea that where you live should not determine if you live!

My vacation days are a bit more treasured now that I’m working in the “real world,” but I committed to attend the events to re-engage my passion to end extreme poverty. When I RSVP’d for the events, my friends at ONE said that I could actually share my perspective at the Cleveland event from the stage. It was an incredible honor.

Speaking at the RNC Global Oval in Cleveland, OH. Click on the picture to watch on periscope.

Speaking at the RNC Global Oval in Cleveland, OH. Click on the picture to watch on periscope.

Going to both conventions, I saw a unique perspective of both political parties and their supporters. I could tell you about the level of unity, enthusiasm, and coherence I observed firsthand, and even my personal opinion of both candidates. However, your Facebook feeds are already full of that kind of commentary. (Take me out to dinner and we can talk all about it.)  Instead, I wanted to share with you just how important it is that the issues surrounding development and fighting poverty don’t become associated with one party or the other.

It was an incredible experience to learn about global poverty at both political conventions.

It was an incredible experience to learn about global poverty at both political conventions.

Over the last 15 years, there have been very few issues of unity or even compromise in our political system. It’s been a war of attrition with battle lines drawn in the sand. It seems that many disagreements are not even fueled by a defined ideology, but rather just a political Game of Thrones. If the Democrats are for something, the Republicans are against it. If the Republicans are for something, the Democrats are against it. Compromise has become a dirty word. Leaders that look for common ground are punished by their political constituency as “sell-outs.” Thus, politicians and the populace feels more divided than ever.

Through it all, sensible African development, the Fight against AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis, increasing infant mortality, and creating opportunity for women and girls has been a shelter from the storm. It’s been the one set of issues where Republicans and Democrats have been able to find common ground, and that ground has been cultivated to yield a harvest of tangible results.

Fewer people are dying from preventable diseases. More kids are in school. More people have access to food, water, shelter, and electricity. We’re turning countries that were aid recipients into trade partners. Our investment is yielding a great return.

10 of our 15 largest trading partners were once receivers of foreign aid.
— Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State. The Global Oval Summit

The trouble with talking about foreign aid and development is that it is always an easy target. Any politician who is brave enough to commit to this work does so at a real risk of backlash from his/her constituency, who would rather see resources allocated domestically. I’m incredibly grateful to all of our elected leaders who have had the courage to stand for the "least of these" around the world.

I believe the frustration with foreign assistance all starts with a common misconception. Here’s a dinner conversation I’ve had dozens of times:

“Why do we spend so much money on foreign aid when we have our own problems at home?”

“What percentage of our budget do you think we spend on foreign aid?

“I don’t know, 20%?”

“I agree. I don’t think we should spend nearly that much either. I don’t think we should be spending any more than 2% of our budget on foreign aid and development.”

“Me either.”

“Awesome, we just agreed that we should double the amount of money we spend on foreign aid. We currently only spend about 1% of our budget on these issues.”

You see, everyone is walking around with a profound misconception that we spend a whole lot more money than we do on these issues. For the relatively small amount of money we spend, we see a HUGE return. But, it’s more than that. It’s not just about the incredible results and progress that this investment yields. It’s about the profound ways that this investment speaks to who we are as a nation.

There’s been a lot of talk this election from both parties about greatness. “Make America Great Again.”  “The next chapter in American Greatness.” “America is already Great.” etc.  However, I would submit that America is only truly great when we do great things. Fighting poverty is a GREAT thing. It prevents terrorism. It builds bridges. It creates opportunity. It markets America to the world. There are MILLIONS of Africans that are alive today that otherwise would be dead if not from our collective, American efforts. That’s pretty great.

Over the coming months, our nation will likely become more and more polarized and divided. Issue after issue will be presented as right vs. left. It might even take its toll on some of your personal relationships. We all need issues where we can find common ground. I submit that there is none more meaningful than the fight against extreme poverty. I’ll stand by that argument economically, militarily, socially, and spiritually, and I'm well-armed with data and insights from the speakers I saw at the Global Oval Summit. 

If you find yourself exhausted by talks of Right Vs. Left, there’s plenty of room for you under this truly big tent of Right Vs. Wrong. I’d love to stand by your side in this fight, regardless of your political beliefs, age, race, or sexuality. It is an issue for which we can all stand together, as ONE.