KU News: America’s role in combating global poverty examined in new book

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Today’s News from the University of Kansas

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America’s role in combating global poverty examined in new book
LAWRENCE — A new book from a University of Kansas historian titled “The Poverty of the World: Rediscovering the Poor at Home and Abroad, 1941-1968” brings together the histories of U.S. foreign relations and domestic politics to explain why, during a period of unprecedented affluence, Americans supported major policy initiatives to combat poverty. The book is published by Oxford University Press.

Conference for people with intellectual, developmental disabilities will focus on leadership, advocacy
LAWRENCE — The Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities and the Self-Advocacy Coalition of Kansas are working with the Heartland Self-Advocacy Network to host the SOAR Conference from Oct. 27 to 29 in Overland Park. The conference will be led by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and will bring together self-advocates from across the country to learn and grow. Keynote speakers will include Phillip McGruder, a member of the Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas, and Colin Olenick, legislative liaison for the coalition.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Jon Niccum, KU News Service, 785-864-7633, [email protected]
America’s role in combating global poverty examined in new book
LAWRENCE — Aristotle famously wrote, “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
But it wouldn’t be until 23 centuries later that policymakers in the world’s most powerful and prosperous country decided to address poverty as a global problem needing to be solved.
“Poverty creates more human misery than any other force on earth,” said Sheyda Jahanbani, associate professor of history at the University of Kansas.
“When people feel scarcity in a world of abundance — which since the 19th century, our world has been — they are not as able to think beyond themselves and their immediate needs. That robs us from collectively benefiting from that human creativity and energy. Seeing riches around you and not being able to access those advantages is a really serious problem facing us as a species.”
Her new book, “The Poverty of the World: Rediscovering the Poor at Home and Abroad, 1941-1968,” brings together the histories of U.S. foreign relations and domestic politics to explain why, during a period of unprecedented affluence, Americans supported major policy initiatives to combat poverty. It is published by Oxford University Press.
As a historian of U.S. foreign relations, Jahanbani wanted to combine that perspective with a story that had been contained as a domestic narrative. It meant learning two very different literatures and familiarizing herself with the relevant debates in those seemingly contrasting fields.
“The book actually winds up being a revisionist history of the Cold War,” she said.
The lives and theories of figures such as Bureau of Indian Affairs Commissioner John Collier, anthropologist Oscar Lewis and economist John Kenneth Galbraith are examined in the book. But Jahanbani was prompted to tackle this subject due to an unlikely source with a different viewpoint.
“When I was a kid, I learned about the war on poverty through the lens of hearing President Ronald Reagan say the government fought a war on poverty … and poverty won. Then when I got to grad school, I read a lot of books that basically took that as if it were true. So now we’re just comfortable thinking that there are intractable social problems when we’ve put people on the moon?” she said.
So she took an honest look at the past through “fresh eyes.”
“The contingent choices that individuals made and the choices they didn’t make helps us see how even the comforting explanations we have for things are too simple,” she said.
The title of her book takes inspiration from American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, who asked, “What is wrong with our civilization?” after reading about poverty in a rural Mexican village.
“He’s asking, ‘What is wrong with the way we’re doing things?’ Jahanbani said. “He’s not asking, ‘What is wrong with these Mexicans?’ That was the guiding insight I came to: Any attempt to address the problem of poverty that does not fundamentally question affluence and who benefits from it is not going to be effective because poverty is not the fault of poor people. It is a social choice and a political choice.”
A KU faculty member since 2007, Jahanbani specializes in American foreign relations in the post-1945 period. Her writing can also be found in another book published this month; her chapter “Through a Narrow Glass: Compassion, Power, and Lyndon Johnson’s Struggle to Make Sense of the Third World” appears in “LBJ’s America: The Life and Legacies of Lyndon Baines Johnson” (Cambridge University Press).
“One of the things I argue in my book is that there were people who saw poverty as an important strategic as well as moral issue, and they made arguments about why the United States should place poverty at the center of its global footprint,” Jahanbani said. “They tried to prosecute that argument and reached a very significant place of political influence … and yet they failed.”
In her conclusion, Jahanbani noted that the path America eventually favored was never a choice between “guns versus butter.”
“We tried to do guns and butter. But ultimately, at the end of the day, American policymakers had more faith in guns. And that’s what they chose to put more of their resources in. You can’t really try to save people from their poverty while also bombing them from the sky.”

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Contact: Jen Humphrey, Life Span Institute, 785-864-6621, [email protected], @kulifespan
Conference for people with intellectual, developmental disabilities will focus on leadership, advocacy
LAWRENCE — “Nothing about us without us” has been a rallying cry for disability rights advocates for more than 30 years. The phrase highlights the need for people with disabilities to participate in decisions about disability research, policy and practice.
Toward this goal, the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities and the Self-Advocacy Coalition of Kansas are working with the Heartland Self-Advocacy Network to host the SOAR Conference from Oct. 27 to 29 at the Marriott Kansas City in Overland Park.
SOAR stands for Seeking Opportunities for an Advocacy Revolution. The conference will be led by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and will bring together self-advocates from across the country to learn and grow. Disability-led sessions will focus on mentoring, training and leadership development.
The conference also has opportunities for individuals to volunteer at the conference.
Karrie Shogren, director of Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities, said it was important for KU to support efforts to center and elevate the voices of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“KUCDD is excited to partner with self-advocacy organizations to support the creation of spaces for disability advocates to come together, share information and lead the next generation of research, policy and practice,” Shogren said.
The conference will be as fully accessible as possible, with American Sign Language interpreters, captioners, personal care attendants on site and volunteers to support attendees. Registration is $100 per person, and hotel accommodations are available for $149 per night. The deadline to reserve a room at the conference rate is Oct. 6.
In addition to several sessions, the conference includes talks by three keynote speakers:
1. Emmanuel Jenkins, founder of the nonprofit We Stand 4 Something. Jenkins works full-time for the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council as a community relations officer, and among many regional and national service positions, he is chair of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities Self-Advocacy Committee.
2. Phillip McGruder, a member of the Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas and a longtime Kansas City, Kansas, resident. Passionate about advocating for autism awareness and education, McGruder works with community partners to find ways to better support people with autism and their families. McGruder will serve on the Kansas Disability Caucus starting in January 2024.
3. Colin Olenick, legislative liaison for the Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas, where he has been employed since 2018 and is a former vice president. In his role, he tracks legislation that affects people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Kansas. Olenick also provides testimony for proposed Kansas legislation regarding Kansans with disabilities.

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Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, director of news and media relations, [email protected]

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