Last week, friends of CGD packed The Diner in Adams Morgan to play CGD State of the Union Bingo during President Bush's final address. The annual event included U.S. State Department, Millennium Challenge Corporation and World Bank participants, representatives from InterAction and Mercy Corps, returned Peace Corps volunteers, congressional staff, and their friends and family. This year, a congressional staffer from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was the first to reach bingo victory, unseating three-time reigning champion Stephan Thurman, an economist from the State Department. Due to Senate ethics rules however, the congressional staffer was unable to accept the prize winnings, and Thurman later completed his bingo card and received his hard-fought CGD t-shirt. Thurman summed up the event in a report emailed around his department:
State Scores Late at State of Union ... Bingo
Unlike the previous three years of scoring top honors at the annual State of the Union Bingo Contest, State Department's representative scored quite late in filling out the bingo card provided. This annual and somewhat raucous event, sponsored by the Center for Global Development at an "undisclosed location" in Adams Morgan (The Diner), has a serious side as well - to underscore the implied importance the administration places on key development issues and initiatives. Contestants must score the first five in a row policy wonkisms mentioned in the speech out of some possible 75 buzzwords related to economic policy development. Notably absent from the speech at all were such words as vaccines, Latin America, G8, outsourcing, global warming, diplomacy, foreign aid, and gender. Then again, policy words such as Iran, democracy, security, Iraq, and opportunity likely helped this year's winning card as they were all mentioned in two sentences back to back. State's representative, awarded a consolation CGD T-shirt - embossed "Ending poverty one regression at a time" - vows to score better next year.
Last year, CGD State of the Union bingo was played as far away as Dhaka, Bangladesh. This year, we know we made it out at least to Chicago, where our friends at See3, who have helped launch our Global Development Matters website, not only played, but made an inspiring video to boot!
On the serious side of things, CGD's bingo players were most interested to hear President Bush mention:
- His commitment to concluding a Doha Round agreement this year to "break down trade barriers at the global level" which was couched in terms of "opening markets for American goods, crops and services" and to "help millions struggling to escape poverty worldwide." He also mentioned completing bilateral trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea;
- Efforts to find new ways for foreign workers--including agricultural and other seasonal workers and highly skilled workers-- to come to the U.S. lawfully, on a temporary basis, to help support the U.S. economy;
- A proposal to provide food assistance to developing countries by purchasing crops of local and regional farmers; and
- Continued support for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the President's Malaria Initiative; basic education efforts, and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA).
More on these and the rest of the State of the Union policy initiatives can be found here. Also of interest, will be CGD's related research on trade, migration, PEPFAR, the MCA and food aid.
For now though, all eyes are on the president's FY09 budget request released today, to see if the rhetoric of the State of the Union address meets the reality of the budget. And tomorrow of course, attention will shift again to the results of Super Duper Tuesday, where 24 states hold their presidential caucuses or primaries.