America and Britain Should Join Forces to End Poverty: Both Nations "Believe That Peace and Security Are the Foundation of Any Progress ... That Creating the Right Climate for Economic Growth ... Is the Best Way ... to Raise the Finances Needed to Defeat Poverty."
Benn, Hilary, USA TODAY
I WANT TO REFLECT not only on the challenges that the U.S. and Great Britain face in fighting poverty on this small and fragile planet of ours, but also on the way in which we do it and how it is seen by others. One of the things I have learned is that you do not spend long talking about development--or, come to think of it, foreign policy, climate change, trade, security, or just about anything else--without the conversation turning to the U.S. This is a sign, of course, of the preeminence of America--the most powerful nation in the world and the owner of the largest economy--which invites expectation and excoriation in equal measure. Now, I realize that this may be sensitive territory for a foreigner to enter, so I will begin by setting out my modest credentials and my reasons for wanting to do so.
I am half American. My mother is from Ohio. She came from Cincinnati. Ohio is known as the "Mother of Presidents," and that certainly is true for Republicans, as none ever has entered the White House without winning the state. The Queen City, of course, is home to that baseball team with such a colorful and successful history, the Cincinnati Reds, a name that gave us great comfort as we were growing up, reflecting as it did both Mum's home town and the color of the family's politics--on the British side, at least!
Her ancestors came from France--they were Huguenots--and from Ireland. One was fleeing religious persecution and the other seeking a better life, like so many who have crossed the Atlantic over the centuries, and like so many millions of people in the developing world today. In 1812, the family--14 of them--set out from the East Coast in two covered wagons and, six weeks later, reached Butler County, Ohio, where they built their first homestead. Seven generations later, I was born to a Cincinnatian in West London, and that is how I come to stand here today.
That heritage--our interdependence--has led me to reflect on where half of what I am comes from, and how the country that makes up the other half sees the U.S. We have, of course, a great deal in common.
That wonderful guide for Gls coming to Britain during World War II reminded them that "our common speech, our common law, and our ideals of religious freedom were all bought from Britain when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock." Mind you, George Bernard Shaw had other ideas when he talked of "two nations divided by a common language," but there is no doubting the bond between us.
More than anything else, however, because of the U.S.'s influence and position, what America says and what America does really matter. Moreover, I realize just how proud Americans are of their traditions, passion for liberty and freedom, and open society. So, it always is difficult for any of us when we come to discover that others do not all see us in the way in which we see ourselves. That was one of the questions the U.S. had to ask itself in the wake of 9/11. In talking about it with my American relatives, I shared their shock at what had occurred and their fear for the future. We felt the same after the July 7, 2005, attack on the London transport system, as much because the bombers came from Britain, three of them from the constituency--or district--that I represent in Leeds. We know that, in various parts of the world, there is resentment against both our nations and, the West in general from certain factions, some of whom invest great hope in our power to change things and yet measure that power against their own powerlessness. This is something that we have to face up to as we remain resolute in defense of the common values that we hold dear.
Our growing interdependence as a world means that we increasingly are affected by what happens in other countries, including conflict, terrorism, and religious extremism. We all are concerned to ensure our security, but we cannot cut ourselves off. We have global responsibilities, and also a duty to use our influence responsibly and with understanding of how others see us. …