Off Topic: Why People, Not Technology, Matter

I know this is a technology blog rather than a political or personal blog, but two things are weighing on my mind. First off is Obama’s speech last night. Regardless of your political leanings, his call for people to come together and take action for the greater good was inspiring. The second is Hurricane Gustav. These two events have the potential to reinforce the power that individual people have.

For as long as I’ve been paying attention, our politicians have asked little of us as citizens. After 9-11 we were told to go out and shop. During the 90s we were given welfare reform but there was no call for Americans to get out there and fight poverty. There has been no attempt to get people involved in solving real problems.

And that brings me to my second concern. Three years ago Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Biloxi, Miss., a town where my dad grew up and my extended family lives. All but one aunt and uncle lost their homes. The storm surge completely altered the town where I spent many a vacation eating biegnets at Mary Mahoney’s, visiting Jefferson Davis’s mansion and walking along the beach by Route 90 to see the lighthouse that my dad decorated for the holidays as teen. Now we’re hearing about Gustav and I can’t help remembering how terrifying and difficult Katrina was for my family.

But people came together. My former colleagues at The Deal gathered money, and out of the blue Fed-Exed me a substantial check for my family. When some of my family flew to Houston to stay with my parents, neighbors who heard that a cousin had a toddler but no toys, brought over a mountain of colored plastic that kept my cousin’s kid busy while the adults tried to figure out where everyone had evacuated to and how bad the damage was at home.

So last night hearing Obama ask the American people to take action for the greater good so close to a time when so many strangers helped my family, I find myself inspired and fearful as another hurricane approaches. I may be cynical about the hundreds of press releases I get or the startups that don’t have a business model, but I have a lot of faith in the people behind such efforts. So even as technology solves some problems, today I find myself thinking about what we as people can do.

image of the Biloxi lighthouse courtesy of