All South Carolinians should be proud of the display of leadership and the example set by former Gov. David Beasley when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the United Nations World Food Programme.

“Waking up in this wealthy, modern, technologically advanced world, it’s hard to imagine us going through a famine like that,” Beasley said during a Thursday ceremony in Rome. “But my tragic duty today is to tell you: Famine is at humanity’s doorstep.  For millions and millions of people on earth. Failure to prevent famine in our day will destroy so many lives and cause the fall of much we hold dear.”

Brack

Beasley, 63, served as South Carolina’s governor from 1995 to 1999. Eighteen years later, after a business career mixed with missionary work, he became the executive director of the WFP, the world’s largest humanitarian agency. It helps 100 million people in 88 countries to battle hunger every year. 

In the past, we’ve described Beasley as the Palmetto State’s version of Jimmy Carter for serving as a leader making a larger difference on the world stage after years in public office.

“All of the darkness of the world can’t put out the smile on a face,” Beasley told us in 2017 just months after taking the job that jets him from hunger-sapped country to European capitals in search of funding to help more people. “This job brings humanity down to the core level. When you see a hungry person, you don’t see a Democrat or a Republican, a Black or white. You see a brother or sister who is struggling to survive. That transcends politics. All you want to do is help them.”

On Thursday, Beasley reinforced the WFP’s humanitarian mission by representing 19,000 people who work to alleviate hunger across the world.

“Thank you for acknowledging our work of using food to combat hunger, to mitigate against destabilization of nations, to prevent mass migration, to end conflict and … to create stability and peace,” he said in Rome. “We believe food is the pathway to peace.”

Unfortunately, there’s much more work in the business he and his colleagues are in. Some 600 million people go to bed hungry every night, he said. Of those, 270 million are “marching toward starvation” and 30 million — more than everyone who lives in Texas — depend on the U.N. program for 100 percent of their survival.

In his acceptance speech, Beasley recalled the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

“Like Dr. King, from a very young age, I learned this teaching from Jesus of Nazareth, as he taught from the Torah: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” Beasley said. “I have come to understand that a better translation of what Jesus actually said was ‘Love your neighbor as your equal.   Think for a moment what that really means. 

“Imagine every woman, man, girl and boy we share this planet with is our equal and if we would just love them as such. Imagine what that would do to war, to conflict, to racism, to division, and to discrimination of every kind.”

He said he is heartened because his agency helped “100 million of my equals — my neighbors” stay alive and avert famine.

“What tears me up inside is this: this coming year, millions and millions and millions of my equals — my neighbours, your neighbours – are marching to the brink of starvation.”

Pathways to avert hunger is fueled by money from wealth, which continued to grow by trillions of dollars as the world reeled from the coronavirus pandemic. He said another $5 billion would save 30 million people from famine.

“’I don’t go to bed at night thinking about the children we saved. I go to bed weeping over the children we could not save. And, when we don’t have enough money, nor the access we need, we have to decide which children eat and which children do not eat, which children live, which children die….

“In the spirit of Alfred Nobel, as inscribed on this medal — ‘peace and brotherhood’ – let’s feed them all.”

Thank you, governor, for reminding us about the fragility of humanity around the world during this season of giving. Keep up the great work.

Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@charlestoncitypaper.com.