I think it appropriate to first look back into history trove's of unlimited thinking and possibilities in order to artfully present this argument of eradicating poverty in our backyard. Not long ago, on September 12, 1962 a man of limitless ideas walked on the magnificent stage and postured himself behind a huge oak finished podium at Rice University in Houston Texas and declared without any reservations of doubt and/or apathy: "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." That man was none other than President John F. Kennedy; a man of vision and resolve. I, like President Kennedy believe that anything is possible when we build a strong consensus of our "will to do." The cynic says: "why move on such an ambitious issue?" I say: "why not!" If a man could dream and make that dream a reality of going to the moon, then certainly one could easily envision a City without extreme poverty. Kennedy made history in sending the first man to the moon, and at this pivotal time in our City's history we can all make history (as a National Model) by eradicating major poverty here in Raleigh, North Carolina.
For those of you who say that poverty is a global shame, but there is no way to fix it, I say just view this issue with an open mind and follow Dr. Carr's reasoning with an attentive eye on the solutions rather than the problem itself. It is promised in this platform that Dr. Carr's experience and wisdom on this issue will tell us something very different. For even if you do not agree with all of his prescriptions, it is impossible to deny that the needless deaths of so many people every year from extreme poverty does call for action on a global scale.
I am proposing herein that we can make those targets, and could actually cut by half the extreme poverty in Raleigh, in all its dimensions by the year 2015: that we can make those targets, and that we can see our way through a decade beyond, and actually end extreme poverty in the City within the coming 20 years. My proposition is that we are the first generation in history that can honestly make that claim. The fact that we can make it, in my view, also makes it unavoidable that we try. It is one thing for millions of people to be dying every year because they are too poor to stay alive; it is another thing for millions to be dying every year because they are too poor to be staying alive and for us to know it and not to act.
That, I think, is the real existential situation of our City, that there is no excuse. The deaths are on our watch. The deaths are in our name. The deaths can stop.
The reason people die of extreme poverty is that they have nothing. They don't need a lot to stay alive, and they don't even need a lot to start the process of economic development. It would not require heroism on our part in order to help save those lives and help to promote economic development where it is not occurring now in Raleigh. It would just take having our eyes opened. It would take some attention. It would take a breakthrough in our country from doing nothing to doing something, because we really are, essentially, doing nothing right now. That is the sad, hard fact.
In the last few weeks, the President, though I support him on a host of his initiative, and our Congress has spoken a thousand times about economic freedom for the middle class and the wealthy without speaking once about poverty. That is what we have to change if we are going to address this challenge. It can be changed. Americans will want to change it. Americans don't know what we aren't doing and don't know what we could be doing. It is not that there is evil or uncaring in the land; it is a lack of understanding of the basic realities.
Why is that? I will speak for myself. There is no way in the world I would have understood anything without the chance to see and experience it myself. Because there is no way in the world I would have read in the news or media, or even in the professional journals that I read, the basic facts and contours of the situation. When one is chanced to see it or to have one's eyes opened and directed towards the problems, I think there is a lot of clarity that can result. That clarity can lead to action, and the action can lead to some stupendous results, not only in saving those lives, but, I daresay, in saving our own as well. Until we take up this challenge, pertinent segments of Raleigh/Wake County is going to be awfully insecure and unstable and unhappy to say the least. Maybe it is sad to say that even after 25 years, every day is still shocking for me—sometimes shocking in the enormity of thecrisis, sometimes shocking in the simplicity of the solutions. One has to work at it. Even more exciting, whatever poor neighborhood I happen to go to, the people know a tremendous amount about what they need and the realities of their lives, contrary to what we think. The people I speak to never strike me as asking for an hand-me-out---It is just that they need some help.
So let me describe for a few minutes why this paradoxical situation in the Raleigh exists, where, in the 21st
century, the United States is a $40,000 per capita economy, we have a billion people living in a degree of
affluence that was unimaginable even a quarter-century ago, we have much of the world achieving development, and yet we have a significant part of the world dying of poverty. That is the first question that needs to be addressed. We need a diagnosis. We need an understanding of what the challenge is.Then we need some practical ways ahead.
The good news is that economic development is a reality. It works. Most of the world has escaped from
extreme poverty. When I talk about extreme poverty, I am talking about poverty that is so severe that
basic needs cannot be fulfilled. What are basic needs? Adequate daily nutritional intake, safe drinking water, basic sanitation, a livelihood that can support survival, that can give a chance for a child to make his or her way through school, access to essential health services in a health emergency, a disease spell. When those conditions are not met, that is extreme poverty.
Listen, two hundred years ago, everybody was in extreme poverty, aside from the few kings and queens and dukes and princes that we read of in the books and plays and histories. Everybody was in extreme poverty. Life was short. Public health didn't exist. Medicine was putting leeches on patients. Under-nutrition was chronic. Famines were regular. That was true in Europe, as well as anywhere else in the world. That has all changed over the last two centuries since the Industrial Revolution. We really did figure out a lot in this world about how to grow food more reliably, about how to harness energy, about how to make water and sanitation safe and available and reliable. The result has spread through almost all of the world. In fact, even with the poorest parts of the world, there has been some economic improvement compared to two centuries ago.
Now the question is; what do we do as-pertaining to a cure of this social disease plaguing segments of Raleigh? Whenever you are faced with a generational social issue such as poverty, I believe we should not spend much time looking back into history for the cause effect, but rather we should look forward to the present and future climates of resolutions. Nominally speaking, we must look to the generation who'll inevitably be affected by this generational poverty degradation---OUR YOUTH!
As a society, Americans believe in equal opportunity for all. Hard work should be rewarded, and a full-time job should afford enough income to support a family with dignity. Children should have more and better opportunities than their parents did, and race and ethnicity should not be major factors in determining the trajectory of a young person’s life. Yet about every 20 minutes in North Carolina, a child is born into poverty. A full-time, minimum-wage job today leaves a family well below the federal poverty level. Children are increasingly trapped in intergenerational poverty, and minority children are disproportionately likely to grow up poor, undereducated, unsafe, unhealthy and unemployed.
Child poverty is an epidemic, with long-term effects ranging from cognitive impairment to physical and emotional disability. If 1-in-5 children suffered from a single debilitating, life-limiting affliction, citizens would demand research into the cause, treatment for the symptoms and a cure for the ailment. The same attention must be paid to the poverty that is negatively affecting 20 percent of North Carolina’s children. The social and economic costs to the state of doing otherwise are staggering. Recent neuroscience and developmental research informs us that children’s brains are
constructed over time, and brain development is directly affected by environmental factors. Poverty often prevents families from investing the time and financial resources they would like in their children’s development, and the detrimental effects are literally built into the architecture of the children’s developing brains, limiting their long-term social, emotional, cognitive and physical health outcomes. Society must take advantage of the opportunities for positive intervention that begin at or before birth and continue throughout childhood, adolescence and even into early adulthood. The physical, environmental and economic health of a child’s neighborhood is also an important predictor for his or her long-term well-being. Poor schools, the presence of drugs, high crime and the lack of a viable business community all limit life opportunities for children in poor communities.
In order for Raleigh, North Carolina to maximize economic performance, every child’s full potential must be realized. Society must approach poverty as the structural issue it is, propelled by broad social and economic forces largely outside the control of poor families and children. This platform issue briefly lays out a framework of effective ways to reduce poverty in Raleigh, North Carolina: support families, strengthen communities and invest in children’s futures.
DR. CARR'S BRIEF POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS:
A). Support families with decent wages; affordable, high-quality child care and housing; and access to tax credits and health insurance.
B). Strengthen Raleigh's Communities through increased access to traditional banking services, improved public and adult education, environmental clean-up efforts and strategic economic development investments to attract socially responsible businesses.
C). Invest in children’s futures through increased opportunities for asset creation, such as appropriate savings vehicles, affordable financial education for adults and children, greater support for small businesses and increased access to home-ownership.