The short attention span of the news media and its consumers surprises no one these days. So it’s pointless to be shocked by the speed with which the tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people in southern Asia was eclipsed in the zeitgeist by the latest developments in the Michael Jackson trial and the histrionic posturings of the U.S. Congress.
News is increasingly a business based on sensation, and once a tragedy has been described, even one of such unimaginable scope as the tsunami, it’s time for that business to look for the next shocking narrative. That’s often why some of the most interesting stories are left untold. With that in mind, once the tsunami had receded from the headlines the BAM sent out a request that students, alumni, faculty, and staff tell us how they had responded to it. Given Brown’s long tradition of public service, it stood to reason that somebody out there was doing something.
I soon received almost 100 e-mail responses. Many reported donating or raising money for relief efforts. People wrote of contributing ten dollars, or a hundred, or two hundred to such organizations as Oxfam, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, AmeriCares, and the Red Cross. Alumni and staff wrote about holding fund-raisers through their churches. Sigma Chi organized a night out to raise money (“Get drunk, get down, and feel good doing it!”), and one alumna reported putting together a black-tie charity ball with colleagues at Goldman Sachs.
Amy Silberstein ’83 helped assemble a “hoop shoot” at her children’s elementary school: kids signed up pledges and then had three minutes to shoot as many baskets as they could, raising money with each basket made. Sung Sun Park ’02, a master of Taekwondo, organized a kick-a-thon, and Atena Asiaii ’08 set up a collection box at a party thrown by a friend’s mom. David Mazza ’74 wrote that his fourteen-year-old son had mined his database for names of venture capitalists and senior corporate executives, whom he then hit up for money, raising more than $150,000 and persuading General Motors to donate five pickup trucks on behalf of Do Something, a national youth-leadership organization. Lindsay Gottlieb ’99, an assistant woman’s basketball coach at the University of Richmond, had her team design t-shirts that were then displayed in a silent auction at games. (The t-shirts even made it onto ESPN.)
Davekumar Chandrasekaran ’01, a medical student at Yale, took a semester off to travel to the region to assess post traumatic stress disorder symptoms among the now-homeless residents assembled at refugee camps. Other alumni wrote of traveling to the area as volunteers for various relief groups. Some e-mailed long descriptions of their time in the region. We’ve come to expect this kind of thing from members of the Brown community, but when it occurs it remains moving and worth recording.