I believe that the present economic crisis will eventually be good for our country. The breadth and depth of this recession will allow us, as a people, to reconsider our values and our priorities. In my travels to visit the poor of the world, in order to collaborate with them on how best to escape a cruel fate that seems almost pre-determined, I see such raw suffering and need. I then return home to be part of a reality that wastes almost a hundred billion pounds of food per year. I painfully realize that I too am part of a crazy “developed world” that spends more on cosmetics than on basic education; where the expenditure on cigarettes, alcohol and narcotic drugs is topped only by military spending – I believe we need to reconsider!
I believe that the current economic situation will remind us that there is a difference between luxury and necessity… will remind us that the true American Dream is not about the size of the mansion in the gated community… will remind us that designer clothes do not make the man and that a Porsche is not a reflection of character… it will remind us that real success does not come from ownership but from a legacy of service.
Yes, I am bombarded with bad news daily, and many are living with suffering that they had only heard their parents or grandparents describe and express. I remember my father telling me that on May 17th, 1936, his entire family in Cuba woke up that day and went to bed that night without eating anything. My dad would always end that oft-repeated story with, “but you see, nobody ever dies of hunger,” and I believed him. Now, having held women in my arms that have lost children and grandchildren to the horror of hunger, having felt their tears soak through my clothes and burn through my skin to reach my very soul, dear father, I beg to disagree.
I remember that a few years ago, shortly after a severe hurricane struck the west coast of Florida, a generous woman sent a check to build a small home for a poor family in Jamaica. She had been forced to evacuate her home near the beach, and when I called to thank her for her kindness after she returned to her home, she said to me, “I never realized what it felt like to be homeless until the day I walked into that shelter.”
So I have to believe that the hardships of these economic conditions will inspire us to action, as individuals and as a nation, in order to end extreme poverty, the world’s biggest killer. Only in this way will my grandchildren ever see justice… only in this way will they inherit a legacy of long-term peace… only in this way will they enjoy lasting happiness.
This I believe.