Kristof began his talk with the unlikely story of a small girl who asked that all her birthday presents be directed toward clean water wells in Ethiopia. Tragically, this seven-year-old was killed in a car crash shortly afterward, but efforts to honor and commemorate her resulted in a gift of 1.2 million dollars -- far beyond the $300 she had hoped to collect. Kristof cited this story as an extraordinary example of the "ripple effect" -- how one person's generosity can inspire another's.
In discussing how we all can be be global citizens, Kristof notes two new trends in the philanthropic sector:
- the growth of grass roots philanthropy made possible by the Internet
- the emergence of for-profit social entrepreneurs and the use of business methods and metrics in traditional philanthropy
- De-worming children with intestinal worms, which greatly improves school attendance and ability to learn
- Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs), which reduce teen pregnancy and keep girls in school
- Training Giant Gambian Pouch Rats to de-mine mine fields -- no kidding! (The rats can sniff the mines but are too light to set them off.)
Turning to global politics, Kristof recommends that the US make better use of its philanthropic strength. We resort too often to the military toolkit, he says, and too infrequently to the education toolkit or the women's empowerment toolkit. While acknowledging that there is a role for military intervention (he recommends a no-fly zone in southern Syria, for example), Kristof points out that education of girls tends to mollify extremism. Similarly, educating boys, so that they have job skills and opportunities, makes extremism less appealing.
Kristof also discussed inequality, both globally and at home. Again, some statistics:
- The richest 85 individuals on earth have more wealth than the bottom half of the world population.
- The richest 1% in the US have more wealth than the bottom 90%.
- The yearly Wall Street bonus pool is equal to twice the collective annual earnings of all minimum wage earners in the US.
As someone who has visited nearly every conflict zone and under-developed region of the world, Kristof is not naive to the problems we confront. They are overwhelming in scale, but he truly believes that when we help just one time, the drop in the bucket ripples outward. Kristof concluded with the story of his own father, a Romanian refugee in World War II who survived thanks to a chance encounter with a young American woman who reached out to help him.