We might not expect TV’s American Idol to be out in front of most presidential candidates on issues of national importance, but that’s what happened this spring. AI’s producers announced that they would dedicate two evenings to raising funds and awareness for children and young people in poverty, in both America and Africa. The show’s commitment stands in contrast to most of the 2008 candidates. What does American Idol know that they don’t?
American Idol isn’t alone. In the last two years, there has been a surge of interest in ending poverty in America. In the faith community, Sojourners and Call to Renewal announced a Covenant for a New America and urged others to help them cut child poverty by half in 10 years. Catholic Charities USA created a Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg created an Economic Opportunity Commission and charged it with proposing ways to promote opportunity and reduce poverty in the city, and he has begun implementing the commission’s recommendations. A Task Force on Poverty, Work and Opportunity of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, led by Los Angeles Mayor
Antonio Villaraigosa, made a set of ambitious recommendations. Governors, mayors, and legislatures in Connecticut, Minnesota, California, and Wisconsin—among others—have launched or proposed initiatives. These efforts are occurring against the backdrop of the larger international efforts to make poverty history.