I just read the results of a client's survey that, among other things, was seeking to identify the issues that respondents regard as “crucial to the well-being of the country.”

Out of eighteen issues offered to a constituency that tilted “liberal” on social issues, only 20% selected “fighting for a better life for disadvantaged Americans” as a crucial issue (they could have selected any number as crucial). Only 8% chose this as one of three to five issue challenges they wanted the next Administration to address when it takes office.

Then I read this Guy Kawasaki interview of Richard Stearns, Prez of World Vision, about the work of his group and the difficulties of interesting Americans in the global poverty issue.

Asked what are the biggest hurdles to alleviating poverty, Stearns answered: “One word: apathy.” He elaborated that the key obstacle is that poverty is often not personal.

In the face of general apathy, World Vision and similar groups like Save the Children and Christian Children's Fund do raise appreciable amounts of money because they do succeed in focusing donors on individual children with their “sponsorship” approach.

Still, when I see the survey results mentioned above, I wonder. Maybe one of these groups should launch a program where the donor “sponsors” not just a recipient child, but also the education of an apathetic American or two!

In the face of such apathy, it seems shockingly misguided (to say nothing of hypocritical in many cases) for so many folks to deride the involvement of celebrities like Bono, Madonna, Oprah and Jolie, and cause marketing efforts like the recent Idol Gives Back.

What does it take to get people with means to give a damn about other people they'll never know? Or to use their political voices on behalf of the disadvantaged?

Shouldn't we want more from our government than safe shores, cheap fuel and a comfortable retirement?

Tom

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