Why Rep. Tony Hall goes to drastic lengths to motivate compassion.

U.S. Rep. Tony Hall defies narrow categories. The Ohio Democrat prays devoutly, yet he is no closeted quietist. He cuts the profile of an activist, yet his Christian faith keeps him from being a mere do-gooder. An active participant in the National Prayer Breakfast, a convener of a weekly Capitol Hill prayer and Bible-study breakfast, he is best known outside Washington, perhaps, for his work in fighting hunger.

In the 1960s, Hall served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. He lived with the poor, experienced their suffering, and entered politics as a result.

Last year, when the U.S. Congress cut off funds for the Select Committee on Hunger, Hall fasted 22 days in protest. After his hunger strike, he organized a Congressional Hunger Caucus and a nonprofit organization, the Hunger Center. In March, he announced a three-day fast during Holy Week to draw attention to hunger and keep it from getting eclipsed by other issues. Twenty members of Congress from both parties joined in for at least part of the time, as did President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

In promoting hunger programs, Hall seeks a balance between local efforts and overseas relief. For ten years, he has cultivated a “constituency for hunger” among the people of Dayton, Ohio. And he scheduled a visit to Angola in early April to assess firsthand the hunger crisis there.

CT spoke with Hall on the eve of Good Friday, the last day of his fast.

Are you looking for any specific results from this year’s fast?

Not like last year. I am simply trying to raise the consciousness of the nation. I want people to begin to realize there are 25 million Americans that are hungry, who go to food banks and soup ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.