Sunday, October 25, 2009

Take Steps to be Mrs. Obama's Role Model

It was a personal treat for me to be at Busboys & Poets, a Washington, DC institution, this week talking about the Fair Trade White House effort. The event was organized by Global Exchange in order to celebrate Fair Trade month, and the evening featured The Fair Trade, a documentary describing the incredibly personal genesis of body care Fair Trade company, Anti-Body. Anti-Body is one of 100+ businesses, individuals and organizations working on the grassroots, nonpartisan invitation to Mrs. Obama to declare the White House a Fair Trade Home.
Please sign the on-line invitation!

What was confirmed for me at this event was my growing understanding of the impetus for the effort: it isn't about the Obama family. It is about average American families.

I first became involved in the effort this past spring after Mrs. Obama unveiled her organic garden, when Fair Traders were considering how the First Family might also express support for the ethics of Fair Trade, which include environmental sustainability and small-scale agriculture. Fair trading at the White House was already an idea conceived by a DC advocate in anticipation of the inauguration. To me, having Mrs. Obama involved seemed like a great awareness building and education opportunity. Some of us even envisioned the creation of dozen of Fair Trade gift bags of food, clothing and body care products that the White House could route to Washington, DC homeless shelters.

The more I talk with folks about Mrs. Obama having Fair Trade products in her family's home, the more I realize that Fair Traders are serving as incredible examples for the First Family. We are sharing how we live our lives, how our consumer choices are shaped by concern for fair wages, fair working conditions, and fair treatment of the planet. One gentleman at the Busboy's event shared with me that he works for the Defense Department but that he tries to shop his values to help create a society that relies less on force for conflict resolution. I mingled a bit with business managers who want to live the American dream but in ways that don't exploit others. Once again I found examples of ordinary people using Fair Trade to create extraordinary progress for the world.

Yes, of course, it is the nature of our society that many of us look up to the Obamas for guidance on everything from volunteering our time to charming Jay Leno. But with the Fair Trade White House efforts we have a real opportunity to demonstrate to the First Family how we Fair Traders live our lives. We can be role models demonstrating that important individual actions can be a positive for consumers and producers, especially those struggling in poverty around the world and around the corner. I still hope Mrs. Obama accepts our invitation to declare the White House a Fair Trade home so that our coalition can celebrate publicly and create a great media and education moment. But I also hope we get Mrs. Obama's private attention to help her understand who Fair Traders are and why we'd welcome her to join our movement.

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