Over the coming year, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law will spark broadened conversation about poverty and inequality through 50 Justice Dinners hosted by our supporters and friends across the country. Our first Justice Dinner, held in Chicago in early March, was an occasion to connect, come together around shared values, and embolden our individual and collective efforts to advance justice and opportunity.
Our hosts Eddie Garza and Xochitl Flores invited a wonderful mix of family and friends, each a community leader in his or her own right. It was a privilege to be among this committed and thoughtful group.
After thanking Southwest Airlines for supporting this effort, Eddie posed the first question: What does poverty mean to you? The answers from dinner guests came steadily: personal stories of growing up without enough, struggle for upward mobility, lost human potential, the intersection between immigration and poverty, systems of oppression, lack of access to education, and more.
Eddie posed a second question: How does the current rhetoric about people who are vulnerable make you feel? Several guests said they were angry, frustrated, or confused. Many felt the current discourse does not represent the country they know, love, and believe in. Several guests who work in education shared their impression that the current climate is having an impact on school enrollment for students with low-income.
In closing, Eddie prompted us to action: What will you do to make our community, and our country, more equitable places? Some dinner guests talked about digging deeper into community work that is already a part of their lives. Others spoke about specific actions they will take within their own communities. One attendee talked about the importance of trying to understand people who have a different perspective.
Several guests decided to host Justice Dinners themselves. Others wanted to connect more deeply with the Shriver Center. And others wanted to continue the conversations that began that evening with one another and in other forums.
Inspired by our founder Sargent Shriver, we believe that ideas, and the service of dedicated, committed individuals to those ideas, can change the world. One dinner at a time, we hope to foster discussion of, and commitment to, those ideas throughout our anniversary year. And we'll continue to share who we meet, and what we learn and are inspired by. Join us.