Poverty Forum

Letter to the American People
February 9, 2009

Dear Friends,

An economic crisis is a time of suffering and strain for the poor, but often a time when the poor receive little sustained attention. Political leaders tend to focus on strengthening financial institutions and addressing the needs of the middle class – important national objectives. But individuals and families near the margins of our economy are sometimes left with little visibility or influence at the very time their needs are greatest. One of the primary callings of Christian leaders of every background is to help provide these men, women and children with a voice. "Let not the needy be forgotten," says the Anglican liturgy, "nor the hope of the poor be taken away."

We are at an important crossroads in the battle against poverty, both globally and in the United States. Communities of people with shared interests and expertise are gathering to make poverty a top priority with our new administration and Congress. Christian Churches Together, an ecumenical gathering of Christian leaders, recently created a Domestic Poverty Initiative. The initiative plots out specific actions the Church will take to decrease poverty. Several large churches in the Washington D.C. area have also designated the month of February as Poverty Awareness month. In that same spirit, The Poverty Forum is releasing policy proposals that cut across ideological divides in order to practically address the plight of our struggling neighbors across the United States. We hope to emulate the early church, when St. Paul met with the Jerusalem Council and was urged by St. Peter to "remember the poor."

Since November, we have been working together with this group of highly-talented men and women to create a menu of policies that represent the common concern of our common faith – a concern for the plight of the poor. The Poverty Forum brought together 16 ideologically diverse Christian leaders and policy experts to identify concrete and effective anti-poverty policies that should garner bipartisan support. The Forum worked to build a spirit of collaboration and common ground. Participants worked in pairs to develop consensus proposals within their areas of expertise. Participants were not asked to explicitly endorse every item, and this is not a package per se, but a number of ideas and options to be explored further by our national leaders. Still, everyone did agree that a collective introduction of these ideas would help spur the kind of broad public debate we need. All the participants are eager to engage with policy makers and further the public discussion around practical solutions toward reducing poverty. From the beginning, the overarching spirit and desire of the Forum has been to work cooperatively to reach a broad consensus, a spirit we all hope is shared by our new administration and Congress.

In Christ's Service,

Mike Gerson
Roger Hertog Senior Fellow
Council on Foreign Relations

Jim Wallis
President & CEO


Make your voice heard.


Acces information on poverty policy & other resources

The Poverty Forum is made up of 8 teams who came up with 25 policy proposals addressing domestic poverty. Brief summaries, complete white paper policy proposals, and a press kit can be found on our Resource page.

Go to Resources
Listen to the Press Conference