More than 900 local residents, high school students and Brookdale community members came together in the Collins Arena Sept. 30 for an inspiring talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
The authors discussed a wide range of domestic and international social issues – including income disparity, women’s health and access to education – that have informed their world-renowned work for nearly three decades.
They also discussed a number of grassroots programs and initiatives that are making big changes for people across the globe, which Kristof and WuDunn highlight in their new book “A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity.”
“We are hard-wired with compassion, and compassion can be contagious,” said WuDunn, telling the story of a young homeless woman in Los Angeles who, thanks to the support of a few teachers and two local residents, recently graduated from Harvard University.
“That’s where ordinary folks like us can get involved. We all touch upon people who are struggling maybe in school or who could use a helping hand. It just takes a little effort to reach out, and it really can make a huge difference.”
The program was hosted by the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education (Chhange) at Brookdale, a nonprofit organization that has offered its own community-based outreach services and enrichment programs in Monmouth County since 1979.
Chhange Executive Director Dale Daniels and Education Director Jane Denny introduced the authors, describing how they and Chhange share a desire to create “actively involved global citizens” and spark real, meaningful change the world over.
“It’s about education, inspiration and the empowerment of all of us,” Daniels said. “That is what Chhange does, and that is what tonight is all about.”
After a welcome address from Dr. Maureen Murphy, the authors presented a number of case-studies and statistics from “A Path Appears,” including the startling fact that the world’s 85 richest people have more combined wealth than half of the people on Earth.
Kristof went on to explain that poor people donate a larger percentage of their income than the wealthy, due to what he calls the “empathy gap.”
“When we are insulated from the need that exists out there, it becomes easier to build barriers and to develop narratives in which poverty and disadvantage are not just economic failings, but moral failings,” Kristof said. “When we chip away at that empathy gap and take risks and try to bridge, it’s remarkable what can happen.”
The authors also answered questions from the audience and signed copies of their book, which were included in the price of admission. Brookdale students were able to attend the event and get a copy of the book for free, thanks to a generous co-sponsorship by the Office of Student Life and Activities.
“It was an amazing program,” said second-year Brookdale student Lana Leonaod, who attended with a few classmates and English professor Roseanne Alvarez. “In class we talk about a lot of those same issues – social progress and altruism and fighting for change. I think it’s a beautiful thing. The more we get involved and take the initiative to stand up for what we believe, the more likely we are to see these changes happen.”
The event was also cosponsored by Continuing and Professional Studies, the International Education Center, and the Global Citizenship Project.
To learn more about Chhange, click here.
Check out more photos of the Kristof/WuDunn program here.