I don’t remember how, but a while back I came across a woman called Samantha Power on twitter. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t known about her before and have followed and read her avidly ever since. I was more than thrilled to hear that Joe Biden has given her a position in his government, as Administrator of USAID:
I first met a real, live American in 1977. She became, and still is, one of my very dearest friends, a role-model, a person I turn to for honest advice. She always makes me laugh.
Since then, living in the USA and making many more wonderful friends, and on my travels there, I have yet to meet a US citizen who isn’t open, generous, interested, friendly, warm-hearted. And that is part of the reason why I found the last four years so dreadfully difficult, trying to reconcile the America I loved with the ugly, Trumpian face it seemed to have become.
USAID has its roots in the Marshall Plan, named after George C. Marshall, the US Secretary of State from 1947 to 1949. This plan provided significant financial and technical assistance to Europe after the war, assisting western European countries in rebuilding infrastructure, strengthening their economies, and (hopefully) thus stabilising the region.
Over the years of teaching English to German adults, I have heard from so many people who remember the post-War CARE packages from the USA with great gratitude, just like Renate Senter here:
And some of my participants were children in Berlin during the blockade of 1948 – 1949, and were among those eating food dropped for them by the ‘Rosinen-Bomber’ (Raisin-bombers):
In 1961 President Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act into law and created USAID by executive order.
I think I’ve written before about one of my favourite BBC radio programmes, ‘Desert Island Discs’: “Eight tracks, a book and a luxury: what would you take to a desert island? Guests share the soundtrack of their lives.”
Well, can you imagine how excited I was to hear that Samantha Power was to be this week’s guest?
I just listened to the programme, and it is as wonderful as I had anticipated. She talks about her early life in Ireland, her father’s alcoholism, her parents’ divorce, emigrating to the USA at the age of nine with her mother and brother, and her father’s lonely, early death. Since all that, she has of course had a marvellous, meaningful career and also married and had two children she obviously adores. She describes her feelings, very typical for the child of an alcoholic, and totally understandable in the circumstances of her father’s death, about the fragility of happiness.
After Samantha had talked about this, she chose to play the song, ” Tonight will be fine”, by Leonard Cohen sung by Teddy Thompson.
And to be honest, this week has seemed a bit brighter. Go, Amanda! Go Samantha! And very thankfully again, go USA!
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it