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Amid elections and hurricanes, listening for a few honest words

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In my quest to be the best-informed citizen I can be, I, like much of America, have been glued to the recent presidential debates. I’m smart enough to recognize that in addition to the actual debating of important issues, there’s a certain amount of gamesmanship and strategy employed by candidates at these events. However, like many people, I’ve been dismayed and disappointed with the blatant careless attitude both candidates (and their spokespeople) have had with being truthful and accurate. Trustworthiness, I would think, is the most basic quality a candidate for any office would want to display when given the chance.  Sadly, it seems this year that bluster is better strategy than honesty.

To prove my theory that I’m not the only one who feels this way, Oxfam supporter and cellist Ben Sollee released a new video today for his very timely song, “A Few Honest Words”.

“Like nearly everyone,” explained Ben, “my attention this week has been focused on Sandy and all of her devastating effects … There are so many people dealing with fundamental challenges in their lives at this moment: food, shelter, clean water, etc. These are things that are not debatable or points of policy; they are human needs. And as the country inevitably shifts its gaze back to the final stretch of the election, I’m hoping we can keep the human-to-human conversation going.”

Filmed at the Lincoln Memorial, the song is Ben’s call for our leaders to just be honest, and the lyrics are as basic and clear as he wishes politicians would be:

If you’re going to lead my country,  If you’re gonna say it’s free,
I’m gonna need 
a little honesty.

I don’t need no handshake, No firm look in the eye,
Don’t tell me what you think 
I ought to hear.

If the candidates do want us to see them as more honest, they could start by talking about poverty, an issue that affects people in the US and worldwide, but has been largely absent from this year’s political campaigns. Oxfam’s Jeffrey Buchanan blogged about a recent poll showing that a “strong majority of respondents across ideological lines believe that the working poor should be a top or important government priority.” According to the poll, voters find candidates who address the issue of poverty more trustworthy and authentic than those who focus solely on the middle class.

Regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on, I encourage you to exercise your right to vote on November 6. And once we learn who’ll lead us for the next four years, let’s use our power to encourage that administration to create a real plan to attack the roots of poverty, instead of “telling us what they think we ought to hear.”

OxfamBuzzList is a blog series about the movies, books, blogs, music, TV shows, and more that have Oxfam staff and supporters talking. If you’d like to contribute a guest post or suggest a topic, please leave a comment below.

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