S.C. shares spotlight at Beasley’s Nobel moment
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
When Lamar native and Society Hill resident David Beasley accepted the Nobel Peace Prize last week on behalf of the U.N. World Food Programme, one of Beasley’s old friends saw it as just another step on the path God set for him. “I see the hand of God in all this,” says Columbia political consultant Bob McAlister, who has known Beasley since the 1980s, when Beasley was an S.C. House member representing Darlington County. “It’s the Lord laying out a path for David … taking a bright young man from Darlington County to guide him every step of the way to where he is today,” says McAlister, who was a top aide to then-Gov. Carroll Campbell. On Dec. 10, Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme, accepted the Nobel on behalf of the agency that combats world hunger. President Trump nominated Beasley to lead the agency in 2017. The Nobel presentations are normally held in Oslo, Norway, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year Beasley accepted the award in an online ceremony from the U.N. agency’s headquarters in Rome. “My tragic duty today,” Beasley said, “is to tell you that famine is at humanity’s doorstep for millions and millions of people on Earth. Failure to prevent famine in our day will destroy so many lives and cause the fall of much we hold dear.” Beasley’s friend McAlister says Beasley deserves the spotlight. “I just have the greatest admiration in the world for David,” says McAlister. “I don’t think there’s a man on Earth I admire more than David.” “He grew up in a well-to-do family” and could have worked as little as he wished, “but now he’s flying around the world, going into hell-holes … taking food and clothing to people who don’t have either,” McAlister says. “He goes into war zones,” McAlister adds. “He goes into hell-holes. He gets his hands dirty. He gets his feet dirty. He doesn’t just sit in an office in Rome and tell other people what to do.” Society Hill Mayor Tommy Bradshaw says his small town is “excited and happy” to see a resident – albeit a resident who’s abroad most of the time — on the world stage accepting a Nobel for his agency. “We’re happy and pleased for him,” says Bradshaw. “It’s not a surprise for me,” given Beasley’s track record of public service. He says Town Council will likely be considering how to honor Beasley – perhaps a key to the town, perhaps a proclamation by council. Beasley, 63, was an S.C. House member from 1979-92 (he was first elected at 21). He was elected governor in 1994 and served from 1995-99. One of the major battles of his term as governor was an unsuccessful attempt to take the Confederate battle flag off the State House dome. Beasley became involved in the fight against world hunger years before joining the World Food Programme. The agency says Beasley “spent a decade working with high-profile leaders and on-the-ground program managers in more than 100 countries, directing projects designed to foster peace, reconciliation and economic progress. He traveled to as many as 30 countries a year, organizing, leading or participating in conferences and missions in Kosovo, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen, among others.” On Nov. 29, Beasley was a guest on CBS News’ Sunday talk show “Face the Nation.” Here is some of what he said about the severity of the hunger crisis: MARGARET BRENNAN (moderator): … You say 270 million (are) on the precipice of starvation. How much of this is due to the pandemic? BEASLEY: Well, quite a bit of it. In fact, about half of that is due to the pandemic. When I joined the World Food Programme a few years ago, the number of people that were marching toward the brink of starvation was about 80 million people. But over the past three years pre-COVID, it spiked up to 135 million. … Since COVID has come in and truly exacerbated every extenuating circumstance we had around the world, the numbers are going from 135 million from one year ago to 270 million people marching to the brink of starvation. This is not people going to bed hungry. This is people really struggling to get their next meal. BRENNAN: You warned recently that the coming year, 2021, could bring famines of biblical proportions. Where specifically are you most concerned? BEASLEY: Well, there’s about 36 countries now that we feed 30 million people that they depend on us 100 percent. We assist about 100 million people on any given day, week or month right now around the world, we need to move that number up to about 138 million. But there are three dozen countries, and you talk about specifically, let me just hit a few, Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Northeast Nigeria, DRC, and I could keep going from country to country to country around the world. In fact, and if we don’t address this, Margaret, this is what we’re looking at – we’re looking at famines, destabilization and mass migration. … BRENNAN: Before you were a humanitarian, you were a Republican governor in South Carolina. You were a politician. So I know you know the politics in this country right now. And you understand the complaints from President Trump in regard to the U.S. taking on too much of a burden, an outsized responsibility when it comes to solving the world’s problems. How do you respond to that argument now at this time of need in this country? BEASLEY: Well, one of the things that I have found when it comes to international aid, strategic, effective international aid, I call it the miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue at both ends. You know, it seems like the Democrats and Republicans, Margaret, they’re fighting over everything. But when it comes to food aid and stabilizing nations and preventing famine, it’s remarkable to watch the Republicans and the Democrats come together, lay aside their differences and literally do what they can.