It is fitting that the upcoming summit meeting between President Joe Biden and Russian president Vladimir Putin takes place in Geneva, for it was there in 1955 when President Dwight Eisenhower made a daring proposal to the Russian leaders of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
A month before Eisenhower headed to Geneva, the United States actually held a training exercise for nuclear war called Operation Alert. Hope for peace with Russia amid a nuclear arms race was desperately needed.
It was President Dwight Eisenhower who said, “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.”
The citizens of America and Russia want peace, including disarming the two largest nuclear weapons arsenals in the world. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin must remember this June 16 when they meet at the summit in Geneva and beyond.
Joe Biden’s message of unity is important for our country in bringing Democrats and Republicans together. Both parties may not agree on everything, but we need to find common ground and approach differences with civility. As Biden said in a recent speech at Gettysburg, ‘We need to revive a spirit of bipartisanship in this country, a spirit of being able to work with one another.”
How do we stop a pandemic, end poverty, achieve social justice, and build peace if our leaders are not working together? We need a leader who can unite and get results for the American people, especially when they need it most. Joe Biden has a chance to restore the type of unity we need, and he has long worked across party lines.
In fact, when Senator Biden voted in favor of the START I nuclear arms treaty back in 1992, he was supporting an initiative that Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had pursued. That landmark treaty got us off to a good start in reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons and paved the way for follow up agreements that also generated bipartisan support. Those included the New START Treaty which President Obama, with Biden as VP, achieved further limiting nuclear arms with Russia.
Biden, as a senator, supported these nuclear peace initiatives with Russia put forward by Reagan, the first president Bush and later his son George W. Bush. Biden says that diplomacy “was how we managed a dangerous rivalry, kept it from spinning out of control, and prevented thermonuclear war. Republican and Democratic presidents alike have understood that nothing is more fundamental to our security.”
When President John F. Kennedy achieved the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union in 1963, he got the support of former president Dwight Eisenhower and members of his administration. The fact that they were in different parties made no difference.
When famine threatened to destroy the post-World War II reconstruction, President Harry Truman worked with former president Herbert Hoover to save hundreds of millions from starvation. Truman was a Democrat and Hoover was a Republican. That didn’t matter. What mattered was the task at hand. Would we see that type of bipartisanship today?
We need cooperation on so many social justice issues. And we cannot let any differences transform into hatred and disdain for opposite views.
Biden was an admirer of the bipartisan cooperation of George McGovern (D) and Bob Dole (R) in the Senate. Those two leaders may have been in opposite parties, but they found common ground which led to legislation feeding the hungry. Biden would try to bring that bipartisanship to Washington once again as president.
Biden says “I will govern as an American president. I will work with Democrats and Republicans and I will work as hard for those who don’t support me as for those who do. That’s the job of a president. It’s a duty of care for everyone.”
Our country needs unity as we fight the Coronavirus and a growing economic and hunger crisis. To have peace and unity in America and around the world requires a president who believes in those principles. Joe Biden is our best chance in this election.
William Lambers is the author of Ending World Hunger and The Road to Peace. His writings have been published by the USA Today, History News Network, Baltimore Sun and many other news outlets.
Joe Biden is right when he says this election is “about your family” and the hardships that many are facing during this pandemic. Trump may have shrugged off Biden’s remarks during their last debate, but the truth is a lot of families are struggling in hunger.
Feeding America says “an additional 17 million people could be food insecure in 2020 as a result of this crisis, bringing the total up to 54 million people.”
Biden wants to expand the SNAP food stamp program to give impoverished families more purchasing power at grocery stores. Foodbanks are desperate for this support because they are overwhelmed with demand following layoffs due to coronavirus-related closings. Nutrition programs are to be increased for low-income families under the Biden plan.
Vice President Joe Biden spoke last Monday at the World Food Program USA award ceremony. He praised this year’s winners, Bill Gates and Howard Buffett, who have dedicated their talents to fighting hunger around the globe.
But Biden also made an admission of guilt—-for being optimistic that we can win the struggle against global hunger. This battle is now ongoing in the famine zones of East Africa, drought-ravaged Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and numerous other regions.
Biden said, “I am often accused of being an optimist. I plead guilty, because I believe strongly in the human capacity-and desire-to build a better world. But I am particularly confident in our ability to feed the future because we have done it before.”
Biden talked about our support of South Korea, once a war-torn country with millions starving. Today South Korea has strong economic development and is a donor to the UN World Food Programme’s hunger-fighting missions.
Biden said, “Beginning in the 1950’s, we provided agricultural support-research, training, and partnerships with American firms-to South Korea, which was one of the poorest countries on the planet. Today, it is the world’s 15th largest economy, and a major trading partner responsible for hundreds of thousands of American jobs. ”
This is a long way from the South Korea that U.S. Army major Charles Arnold saw in 1951 during the Korean War. Arnold, who led a UN Civil Assistance team, said children arrived at feeding stations and “greeted us by rubbing their stomach and saying hungry.” After regular meals from Arnold’s team, the children took on a new, healthy look. They began to smile.
South Korea was also a country that benefited from the famous CARE packages that fed so many hungry people in Europe after World War II. President Truman urged Americans to send these CARE packages to feed those hungry and displaced by the Korean conflict.
As time went on, South Korea gained from agricultural development projects, similar to those Biden praised in the current “Feed the Future” campaign. South Korea was also one of the beneficiaries of the U.S. Food for Peace program started under President Eisenhower and expanded during President Kennedy’s administration.
George McGovern was Food for Peace director under President Kennedy. He writes that about 2 million South Korean children were receiving school meals under this hunger-fighting initiative. These meals made children healthier and better educated. This is a contrast to Afghanistan today, where low funding for the UN World Food Programme has meant that many impoverished children have lost their school meal ration.
In addition, proposed budget cuts to international food aid, including Food for Peace, will mean school feeding, Feed the Future and other aid projects will face cutbacks. This is a severe threat to peace.
Biden also said, “We will continue to support your work, by urging our friends in Congress to resist the urge to slash foreign aid budgets, because long-term solutions now can reduce the cost of massive relief efforts and instability later.”
Hunger-fighting programs currently make up less than one tenth of one percent of the federal budget. So slashing them does virtually nothing to eliminate the debt. Funding cuts though would devastate U.S. foreign policy. It is virtually impossible for countries to develop and have peace when generation after generation of children grow up malnourished and stunted in mind and body.
Biden finished his speech on Monday citing Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, who saved millions from hunger through his agricultural innovations. Borlaug said: “If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the fields to produce more bread; otherwise there will be no peace.”
This is a message Congress needs to hear again and again as it makes crucial decisions about our foreign policy. The Food for Peace tradition of the U.S. is very much at stake in the current debates on the federal budget. What they decide in the coming days will have major implications on whether the struggle against global hunger can be won.