APB Speaker Nicholas Kristof Discusses Combating America's Epidemic of Despair
23 Jun 2021
As a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering global humanitarian crises and suffering around the world, New York Times columnist and author Nicholas Kristof thought he had seen it all. But what has surprised him the most are the problems and hopelessness happening right here in the United States. An epidemic of despair, he calls it.
And the worst part? Like a lot of places in rural America, it’s happening in his hometown of Yamhill, Oregon. “We were seeing this humanitarian crisis unfolding in this community that we love,” Kristof said in an interview on the Marie Forleo podcast with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. “Of the kids who rode the bus to school with me, about one-quarter have passed away from drugs, suicide, alcohol and reckless accidents. It seemed to us that if deaths and catastrophes are newsworthy half a world away, they are likewise newsworthy right here at home. It has become increasingly clear it is not a failure of the little town I love but a failure across much of America.”
So, what’s the reason for all of the problems? Kristof says rural communities across the country are struggling with the loss of blue collar jobs, a shortage of social services and no hope. And even worse? This country’s underinvestment in healthcare and especially education.
The good news is there are ways that we can all help with educational disparity. Kristoff says you can support local Educare programs, which help young children living in poverty develop the academic and social-emotional skills essential for success in school and life. You can also become a mentor to a child who needs it.
“More and more, I’ve become a believer that education affects everything else … It equips people to have a better interaction in the world,” Kristoff says. “Education to me is incredibly cheap. Not a silver bullet but part of silver buckshot. It makes a difference … A country can’t reach its potential when so many citizens aren’t reaching theirs.”