Take it from Clint, we’re better if we work together on crises

THE OLYMPIANFebruary 12, 2012 

There was barely time to get over the New England Patriots’ loss to the New York Giants, and from seeing a 53-year-old Madonna doing one-arm pushups, before Thurston County Food Bank executive director Robert Coit walked into our offices last week.

No doubt you are puzzling over the improbable connection between last Sunday’s Super Bowl and a local food bank, so let me explain.

Coit came to The Olympian’s editorial board armed with data showing a dramatic rise in the number of people needing food. Hunger, it seems, is burgeoning.

The increased demand is being driven not by the homeless or the chronically poor, but by the arrival of 200 formerly middle-class families every month. These are people who have recently lost jobs. These are people trying to save money on groceries to pay the mortgage – and not lose their homes.

They are the jobless victims of our economic crisis and a stark reminder that people need to work in order to eat.

And that’s what connected me back to last Sunday’s Super Bowl, and specifically the Chrysler ad, “It’s Halftime in America,” narrated by Clint Eastwood.

The gritty actor, known for his movie roles as a tough guy who takes matters into his own hands, growled his way through a two-minute mini-movie and delivered a message Americans needed to hear. We are tough. We can take a punch and get right back up. When we work together and invest in American workers, nobody can dominate us.

“It seems that we’ve lost our heart at times,” he said in the ad. “The fog of division, discord and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead. But after those trials, we all rallied around what was right and acted as one. Because that’s what we do. We find a way through tough times, and if we can’t find a way, then we’ll make one.”

Eastwood was saying more than that Americans are resilient, determined and usually optimistic people. He was saying that when we work together – whether that’s as communities or as a nation with public-private sector partnerships – we are even stronger. And the outcome is always better.

The well-known conservative was tapping into the American spirit, playing the coach rallying his players at halftime to come back and win the game. Like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton before him, Eastwood knows that Americans respond best when given hope and optimism, rather than being dumped on with gloomy and whiney predictions of inevitable doom.

Forget all the political controversy surrounding the ad. Those are just right and left operatives trying to score points from a message that obviously resonates. It’s the words that count, and they speak simply to our nation’s resilience in the face of adversity.

Back in the real world, where this legislative session’s dramatic budget cuts will just add to the two-hour line at the Thurston County Food Bank, Eastwood’s message that we’re tougher together is evidenced every day. More than 6,000 food bank volunteers have jumped into the game, ready to meet the challenge and setting us up for a thrilling second-half victory.

It’s a good-news story being played out at other nonprofits all across Thurston County.

George LeMasurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or glemasurier@thetolympian.com.

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