Bearing Witness to the Courage and Gratitude of Those Who Once Benefitted From SNAP

COMMERCIAL IMAGE - In this photograph released by HBO on Wednesday May 2, 2012, Students of Lasley Elementary School in Lakew
COMMERCIAL IMAGE - In this photograph released by HBO on Wednesday May 2, 2012, Students of Lasley Elementary School in Lakewood, Colo., Isabel Martinez, Dillon Bushlack, and Kaela Salas, enjoy a healthy lunch from their new salad bar, courtesy of HBO’s The Weight of the Nation campaign in Lakewood, Colo. (Jack Dempsey/AP Images for HBO)

It doesn't take tremendous courage for Washington politicians to cut benefits for politically powerless women and children, as those pushing for draconian cuts in SNAP are proposing. On the other hand, imagine the courage it must take for successful men and women who are in the public eye to share their personal stories that they once needed the food and nutrition assistance that food stamps provide. More and more Americans are speaking out, bearing witness and giving first-hand testimony to their gratitude for the critical role temporary food assistance played in their own success and ability to give back.

This week, as the national political dialogue has focused on who benefits from government programs, we aired a TV spot featuring three testimonials from people who needed food stamps for a short time in their younger years and have gone on to become professional athletes, members of Congress and television stars. In this 30-second TV spot, Sandra Lee (Emmy-winning Food Network star), Ruth Riley (WNBA basketball star playing for the Chicago Sky) and Rep. Joe Baca (California's 43rd district) talk about how food stamps got their families through tough times and made it possible for them to be who they are today. You can see it here.

Even journalists have felt compelled to set the record straight. At the end of report on last week, CNN's chief political correspondent John King turned from his electoral map to the camera and told viewers that when he was young, his father had become ill and his family was on food stamps for a short time. King said that they didn't feel entitled, only grateful. Programs like SNAP provide a temporary lifeline when families need it most; in fact, the average amount of time families rely on the program is around nine months.

A record 46 million Americans are on SNAP today. Nearly half of them are children, the most vulnerable and the least responsible for the situation in which they find themselves. Most kids don't have the opportunity to go on television and tell their story. But some of those who once were such kids are increasingly sharing their voice and their story. Theirs is not a political message, but a very human and very inspiring one: give a kid a chance and he or she can grow up to change the world. We're collecting stories here -- please feel free to share your own.

Bobby Kennedy used to say "Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change." Political candidates today don't always evoke such moral courage. But fortunately, as the 30-second spot attests, those they seek to lead often do.