On Monday, Oprah gave everyone in her audience $1,000 Bank of America debit cards that had to be spent on charities or strangers. All audience members also got Sony camcorders to record their experiences giving away the money.
I think this is great for a number of reasons.
First of all, I really believe that philanthropy is not just for the Bill Gateses (sp?) and Warren Buffetts of the world. Sure, their billions go far, (most recently for diarrhea research) but the aggregated donations of everyday schmos like you and me far exceeds the largesse of the uber-wealthy. When a person of her stature gives ordinary (ie not rich) people to make a difference in peoples’ lives, it reminds everyone of their power to do good.
Secondly, I believe that the corporations win big here. Oprah has given other stuff away before, most notably Pontiac cars. But this makes BofA and Sony look like nice, cuddly companies whose products/services can be used to better the world. Any product can be helpful somehow to someone doing something nice (such as the search engine, couch, pillow and light bulb all assisting me in my effort to write this post about philanthropy). But these two get to be recognized for their generosity. Good for them.
When I heard this I quickly put up a plea on the Interplast blog hoping that any audience members who hadn’t decided how to spend their money might be persuaded to give Interplast a piece of the pie. No luck, but oh well.
I’m a big believer in 8,000 one pound gorillas doing more ass-kicking than one 8,000 lb gorilla. Oprah is the only person I can think of in America who completely transcends race (although not gender), and to see her use her sway for the good of others is great.
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