“Poverty is threatening our very democracy” ——- Tavis Smiley to kick off national lecture tour on poverty in Indianapolis on Jan. 18

January 16, 2013


I attended quite a compelling panel discussion yesterday in Indianapolis, “Poverty in America, From Safety-Net to Reliance,” featuring Tavis Smiley and John Graham, Dean of IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The program began with a pair of SPEA graduate students presenting data showing that poverty in Indiana is worse than the usual government statistics indicate. A couple of the many stats they presented: 1. Per capita income in Indiana declined from 2000 to 2010 and is the lowest among states in our region. 2. Families on food stamps in Marion County grew by 203% from 2000 to 2010 and in the counties surrounding Marion County, it was even worse — 342% growth during that decade.

“Poverty is threatening our threatening our very democracy,” Tavis Smiley said at the beginning of his remarks. “It is now a matter of national security.”

Smiley then quoted former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “You can either have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few or you can have a democracy.”

Smiley, an IU SPEA graduate, said that 1/2 of people in this country, 150 million Americans, are either in or near poverty. He spoke passionately about his plans to conduct a national Poverty Manifesto tour in which he and Cornel West will visit college campuses around the country.

During these visits, Smiley and West will seek to engage college students to use social media and other means to pressure and convince the Obama administration of two things: 1) the time is now, during Obama’s second term to “stiffen his spine” and make a major policy address on reducing and eradicating poverty, and 2) Obama needs to convene a White House panel on poverty with two goals – cut poverty in half in 10 years and eradicate poverty in 25 years.

Smiley and West are kicking off their national college tour with a free lecture at 7:30 this Friday, Jan. 18 at Clowes Hall at Butler University. http://www.cloweshall.org/calendar/event.lasso?id=19252

Head Start parents weigh in on Obama speech

September 10, 2009

Two parents of SCCAP Head Start children shared their opinions about President Barack Obama’s health care speech with The Herald-Times last night.

Here’s what those parents had to say –

Vanity Benberry, Indiana University senior:

My initial reaction to President Obama’s plan is (that it is) in the best interest of the American people. Everyone that is a citizen of the US deserves health care and they need it now, not tomorrow. We need cheaper, more efficient health care that is available for everyone who wants it. The government public option seems like a great idea (for those) who can’t get healthcare through other means. I personally have health care through my father’s employer, but co-pays are expensive, providers are hard to find, and medication costs are high. I would rather have Medicaid or a public option that is cheaper. I have a condition that requires me to go to the doctor frequently, buy medication, and get my blood drawn every couple of months. When buying my medication, I don’t use my insurance, I have to pay to get my blood drawn, and I have to go to Indy for appointments. I’m a college student and it’s hard to manage these rising costs and I believe Obama is working to find the best means for me and the rest of America to be able to afford to go to the doctor and get the services we need to stay healthy.

Dennisha Hicks, student at Ivy Tech Community College:

I just feel his idea is a great idea. Everyone should have some kind of medical or at least be able to buy into medical. He explained his case very well.

I have four children and when they get older, life might take them — you never know, they might not be able to afford health care — so I want know that they will at least have access to it. My 3-year-old son will grow up some day to be a man, and we know it’s more difficult for men to get Medicare.

For those who have subscriptions, you can read the comments of other local people about Obama’s speech and health care plan at HeraldTimesOnline.com.

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