President Obama mentions extreme poverty in State of the Union address

As the nation watched President Obama enter the House chamber for his fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night, Americans from all walks of life waited to see if the issues they care about would be mentioned. It was no different for ONE members, who wondered for weeks if the issue of extreme poverty would receive a mention. Forty-five minutes in, they got their answer.

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“In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day,” the president acknowledged. “So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades.”

How? “By connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.”

An AIDS-free generation is just what we’ve always known we could achieve. America’s been a leader in the fight, ever since President George W Bush announced PEPFAR, the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, in his 2003 State of the Union address. But we must do more.

Over the past 10 years, the world’s richest nations, including the United States, have made life-saving investments to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria – and the results speak for themselves. The Fund has helped save millions of lives through incredible advancements in fighting these preventable, treatable diseases. Yet with the looming threat and potential impact of the sequester, programs like The Global Fund are at incredible risk. While the sequester may apply equal cuts, the damage it would do to some of the most cost effective overseas programs would put so many of our advances at risk. We support a robust contribution to The Global Fund, and for President Obama to make good on this promise that he mentioned during his address, he needs to sustain current funding to this life-saving program. After all, at less than 1 percent of the overall federal budget, the money we spend on foreign assistance does a world of good.

Take action NOW and tell President Obama to sustain funding to The Global Fund! Click here to send a message.

Over the course of his speech, President Obama also acknowledged energy’s role in creating a robust economy. That’s true for the United States, as well as sub-Saharan Africa – where half a billion people are living without electricity. Providing access to reliable and affordable energy is one of the most powerful development tools – delivering job creation and economic growth, as well as improving health and education and encouraging sustainable poverty reduction.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a powerful symbol of freedom and a role model of everyone here at ONE, was also mentioned in the speech. Her story of forgiveness and peace is inspiring beyond measure.

When the speech ended, the debate on just about every issue in Washington commenced – but in true bipartisan fashion, longtime ONE supporter Senator Marco Rubio mentioned our investment in these programs in the official Republican response to the President’s address. “On foreign policy, America continues to be indispensable to the goal of global liberty, prosperity and safeguarding human rights,” he said. “The world is a better place when America is the strongest nation on earth.”

American idealism has always achieved wonders. At the end of the night, one line stuck with us. “We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all,” said the president. Achieving an AIDS-free generation would truly be a proud American legacy.