In a meeting of the United Ways of New England in Boston, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers noted to an audience of 200 Boston industry leaders and executives that at a time when the United States is at its most powerful and incomes are at a historic high, there is a growing gap between this prosperity and the way many children in the country live.
“What we can do,” said Summers, “what United Ways does, is help those children in the moment of their greatest vulnerability. Surely for all of us, being a part of this – and encouraging others to be involved – is an investment in the future of our country, an investment in our city and our neighborhoods.
“I’m struck by the reservoir of idealism that is coming back among young people in our institutions,” Summers continued, “by the number of our students who say they don’t want to just live their lives for themselves but they want to live their lives in part for others. They want to help educate. They want to help provide health care. They want to help those who are mentally ill. They want to help those who don’t own homes.”
Summers talked about the measures that Boston’s institutions have taken to help, citing the support area businesses give to the United Way, as well as the efforts of other institutions. These measures include Harvard’s recent low-income initiative, which eliminates tuition contributions from families with an income below $40,000, and its support of after-school programs that help bridge the gap between school time and home time. He also mentioned area hospitals’ efforts to offer free clinics to low-income families. But Summers noted that we can also do more.
“All of that energy is there, and all of those people are there, and if they want to give their lives to helping others, surely all of us who are so fortunate can help them by sharing a small fraction of what we take home so that they can accomplish their goals.”
By Lauren Marshall