While it may be impossible to correct all of the world’s social injustices, there is no reason for not working on them. “It is always better to do something than to do nothing,” said New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
Appearing with his wife and coauthor Sheryl WuDunn, a former Times reporter and business editor, Kristof delivered this optimistic message to an audience of about 800 at Brookdale Community College on Sept. 30.
The first married couple to share a Pulitzer Prize, the two campaign for the empowerment of women throughout the world, and have tackled such problems as sex trafficking, poverty, and violence against women and girls.
The event was sponsored by Chhange, the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education, which is housed on Brookdale’s Lincroft campus.
Kristof and WuDunn have traveled tens of thousands of miles, often in the developing world. A few years ago, they took their children to Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.
“Our kids, all now in college, get it,” said Kristof. Too many in developed nations do not, he added, blaming it on an “empathy gap.”
Kristof said, “The richest 20 percent of Americans donate on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity, while the bottom 20 percent gives 3.2 percent.”
WuDunn said it is important to substitute a virtuous cycle in place of what we have now.
Some steps that could be taken are simple and inexpensive, she explained. For example, it costs about $3.50 to de-worm a child infected with intestinal worms; yet if that is not done, school attendance and attentiveness both suffer dramatically.
Emphasizing that altruism is not dead, Kristof and WuDunn stressed the importance of taking even small steps, like providing vitamin A to prevent blindness, or sending a child to school.
The program’s $30 pre-registration fee included a paperback copy of the couple’s latest book, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity. The couple was also featured in a three-part PBS mini-series inspired by the book. The film tells the story of a former prostitute in Memphis, Tenn., who tries to escape an environment cluttered with pimps, drugs, and frequent beatings.
During their talk, Kristof and WuDunn also applauded Sheriff Tom Dart of Cook County, Ill., who early this year launched a “National Day of Johns Arrests.” According to the video based on their book, his force rounded up about 570 would-be buyers of sex as well as 23 men charged with pimping, trafficking, or promoting prostitution.
Poverty is not just about a lack of money, according to the authors. “It’s about not having hope,” Kristof said.