116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Independence Day reminds us what America represents, a nation dedicated to the rights of every person in every land. This spirit, enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, calls us to action to save millions of people on the verge of starvation worldwide.
As the Declaration of Independence reads "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Americans stand up for human rights, including the most basic which is food. It is the right of every person to have food to live. No person should starve in the world. But yet 325 million people are marching toward starvation according to David Beasley of the U.N. World Food Program.
History tells us America will respond to the massive hunger crisis unfolding this summer.
Back in 1919, a group of U.S. Army and Navy officers were called into action on a special mission. The fighting of the First World War had come to an end with the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, between the Allies and German led Central Powers.
The nation of Latvia, which had just declared its independence, was still seeing conflict within its borders. The Bolshevik Communists from neighboring Russia invaded in early 1919 and took control of the major port city of Riga. Opposition forces, including Germans and Latvians, came together to expel the Communists from the city.
But an old familiar foe emerged: Hunger. People were starving to death in Riga, the capital of Latvia.
U.S. soldiers were recruited by the American Relief Administration (ARA) to bring lifesaving food to starving Latvians. Former President Herbert Hoover was the coordinator of the ARA. A train of food was loaded by the ARA officers and dispatched toward Riga. This would be no easy delivery amid the violence.
Herbert Hoover got a telegram from the food train leader, Lt. George Harrington, confirming his worst fears. Harrington warned “This special train of food has encountered blown-up tracks and bridges."
Lt. Harrington and his men worked to repair the tracks. The dedicated soldiers even moved some food by wagon and hand carts toward Riga. Harrington went ahead to Riga to analyze the situation.
Harrington wrote it was urgent to “ship food into Riga as quickly and in as large quantities as possible, at the same time making this action widely known in Riga, so that the people will know they are being helped.”
The food train eventually arrived and more aid followed. The ARA, which brought food to many starving nations during and after World War I. They did their part to try and win peace.
Today, we also need to help starving nations like war-torn Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, D.R. Congo, South Sudan and many others. Afghanistan, following a massive earthquake, is on the brink of famine. And we must help feed Ukraine’s war victims.
We will rise to the challenge of this hunger crisis. We will not let people starve to death. That humanitarian spirit represents the best of America.
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the U.N. World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.“