EDITORíS NOTE: Rotarian Glen Rowe is the Rotary Foundation District Chair and, as such, has studied generosity and giving in America. All of the information is stunning in its breadth and depth. These are his conclusions. Below are excerpts from his recent presentation to the Waxahachie Rotary Club.
I donít know how you got here. I donít know if you were born here of American parents. I donít know if you were born here of immigrant parents who came here for a better life Ė Welcome to America.
I donít know if you are an immigrant who came here for a better life Ė Welcome to America.
But YOU ARE IN AMERICA and that statement alone, by definition, means that you are the best fed, the best housed, the best clothed, the best educated and freest people on the face of the earth, in the history of the world.
For example, this Big Blue Marble that we live on is home to about 7 billion souls. If we shrink that 7 billion population to a village of 100 this is what that village would look like.
Of the 100 residents there would be 60 Asians, 19 Europeans, 8 Africans, 7 South, Central and Latin Americans, 5 United States citizens and 1 lonely Canadian.
Of that village 70 would be non-white, 70 would be non-Christian, 30 would be illiterate Ė unable to read or write Ė 35 would malnourished, 80 would live in substandard housing and 40 would not have access to potable water. In the villiage there would be one university degree and one half of the wealth of the entire village would be owned by five people and all five would be United States citizens.
Thereís one other thing I need to tell you about those five people Ė they have been awarded more Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry, physics and economics than the other 95 combined.
So, we did not steal that wealth. We have also acquired a well-developed sense of selflessness that is unparalleled in world history. We reach out for the higher-order values of altruism, philanthropy and general well-being of our fellow man. These are manifested in our boundless generosity.
For example, on average, 365 days every year Americans give $4.5 million to the Salvation Army. EVERY DAY Americans give $3 million to the YMCA.EVERY DAY Americans give $2.5 million to Red Cross and EVERY DAY Americans give $700,000 to the Special Olympics.
Last year we gave away $310 billion to charitable causes Ė thatís almost $1,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. If that $310 billion were a country it would rank number 30 among the richest countries in the world.† Think about it. There are 190 countries in the world and the $310 billion would rank number 30. And we gave it away. And asked nothing in return. And we do that year after year after year.
And thatís not the whole story. If we paid minimum wage for the work we do as volunteers we could not afford to pay ourselves for the time that does not show up on any gift rolls.
We build houses for Habitat for Humanity. We organize support groups for people with common problems such as alcohol, drugs, AIDS, etc. We contribute to and man food banks and centers to feed the homeless. We volunteer in local hospitals as Candy Stripers. We read to the elderly and blind. We mentor and tutor in schools as Big Brothers or Big Sisters. We volunteer in Scouting and YMCA programs. We organize various booster clubs for sports, bands, etc. We organize and operate youth sports organizations. And, we go to Mexico, Haiti, Africa and India on mission trips and to address national disasters.
In other words, Americans are very busy helping others.
This is the legacy of America. And you are REQUIRED to accept this challenge. Because, you see, youíre in America and thatís what Americans do.
Glen Rowe serves as the a Rotarian and District Director of the Rotary Foundation.