I sometimes find myself getting grief or even ridicule for saying we will end poverty. It is not as if I do not understand how big of an issue it is or how long it has endured. It is just that I believe we see it upside down, sideways, or just not as it is really is. And while talk of ending poverty may appear simplistic, a 20th century philosopher and statesman, Jan Christian Smuts, once wrote that “all great truths are in their essence simple; and the absence of simplicity of statement only shows that the ultimate form has not yet been reached.” This is a good reference point from which to discuss and then pursue the end of poverty.
To end poverty starts by seeing it as it plays out each day. We have people living in unsafe neighborhoods, people living in real danger each day. Well, we have solved that type of thing before. We have made neighborhoods safer; there are examples of that in all parts of our United States. We have done that. And we can do it again and again and again – until we are safe. We do not tolerate danger in most of our neighborhoods; we cannot tolerate it in any of them.
Poverty means people being severely under-prepared for the workforce, or being under-educated because of the poverty into which they were born and raised. Well, we have prepared thousands of previously under-prepared people for work; we have educated thousands of people who were far behind their peers. We have educated and trained adults for myriad jobs and careers they never thought they would have. We do it everywhere in this country, and we can do it for those whose lives and whose families hang in the balance.
When we talk about poverty, we are also talking about people not having enough access to information or transportation. We have also solved these issues in various communities in various parts of this country – with ease. It takes investment, for sure. It takes having the issue be a priority, of course. And we have done that; we have made inaccessible areas become accessible, and we have brought information to people who previously did not have information. We do it all over the world, in fact, and we can do it for the one out of every five or six in this country who need it. If we set it as a priority, it will be easy. Yes, easy.
Kids being behind from birth – and then far behind their middle and upper-income peers when they start school – is a big part of the cycles of poverty. Well, many of us in this country have had kids who started from behind, who started off not at the same level as their peers. Not only have we gotten them to a point where they were educated, but they went on to graduate and post-graduate work. Because we cared enough, whether it was our individual child or children in our district or region – wherever they have been – we have done that.
We have solved every single issue related to poverty, on large scales, on small scales, in this and other countries.
So, it is really about seeing it differently, seeing who we are differently, and seeing this world differently. And acting on it.