Assembly series speaker addresses hunger and democracy
Fighting poverty and spreading democracy went hand in hand, as author and social activist Francis Moore Lappé spoke Tuesday as part of Washington University’s Assembly Series.
At the event, Lappé spoke about her newest book, “Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, and Courage in a World Gone Mad.”
The book argues that the cause of hunger in third world nations stems from power relations and an absence of democracy.
In 1987, Lappé received the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, which is offered to workers in fields such as environmental protection, human rights, sustainable development, health, education and peace.
The talk was co-sponsored by the University library system and the student groups Feed St. Louis and Alliance of Students Against Poverty. Liz Kramer, co-outreach chair of Feed St. Louis, described Lappé as “a premier activist on hunger issues”.
“Lappé’s new book is about citizen action and talking the service component and doing good for people and using to make change the world,” said Kramer. “Her focus is on democracy and application of democracy.”
Kramer noted that the talk itself did not directly cover issues of hunger and democracy. Rather, Lappé spoke mainly about her book, which encourages the idea that each individual can take action to fight hunger and change how food is distributed.
“We’re very excited to bring Lappé to the Assembly Series not only because of her work in hunger, malnutrition and poverty issues throughout her life, but also because we subscribe to the belief that the service work we do can make a difference in the ways the world is,” continued Kramer. “She’s inspirational in motivating people to use their powers to make positive change.”
When asked whether Lappé’s talk would have an effect on the policies and actions of Feed St. Louis itself, Kramer noted that her group’s goals and Lappé’s goals aligned together.
“Feed St. Louis is in a time of great transition right now, and we are restructuring. our organization. The idea of making change in the ways Lappé describes is right in with the changes we’re making in our organization and the direction in which we hope in head.”
Sophomore Stephanie Koh, who attended the talk, also found inspiration in Lappé’s talk, noting how the “power of an idea” causes positive social change.
“It’s inspiring to have someone who’s actually done stuff,” said Koh. “One thing that really spoke to me was that she talked about the power of an idea-democracy and empowering the individual.”
Koh also noted that Lappé’s speech spoke to her as a student.
“I think her emphasis on making democracy and empowering the individual really speaks to us because of the potential that we have,” she said. “The point in our lives right now, going through university, has a lot of potential. It’s an example for us to use our individual powers. As students, it is easy to feel powerless in a world with such widespread suffering. Lappé’s message reminds us that not only can we make a difference as individuals, it is our duty to as citizens.”
Kramer seemed to agree with Koh’s statement.
“I hope that she can engender involvement and action in not only the Washington University and St. Louis community, but nationally and internally,” said Kramer. “We have so many students on campus who are involved and dedicated to their causes, and we hope she will give encouragement that small steps make a big difference in changing the world.”
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