Imagine an America Without Poverty

Nearly 50 million Americans live in poverty, which means that more than 16% of our fellow citizens are struggling to survive. For children, that number is 20%–and, worst of all, for African Americans, the figure is nearly 26%. With all the talk of a slow recovery from the deepest recession since the U.S. depression, there doesn’t seem to be much good news for the country’s poor.

It’s against the stark backdrop of these numbers that we broadcast four nights, January 22-25, 2013, of a special conversation on poverty. “Vision for a New America: A Future Without Poverty” examines one of the most important, but often-forgotten issues of our time. Panelists discussed proven solutions on how government officials can contain the wildfire of American poverty.

Explore panelists’ bios below and watch the four broadcasts online for our discussion on ways to aggressively address the economic crisis in the U.S. by refusing to abandon those Americans most in need—the perennially poor and the new poor—the country’s former middle class.

Mariana Chilton, Director, Center for Hunger-Free Communities/associate professor, Drexel University School of Public Health
Dr. Chilton is a nationally recognized leader addressing child hunger in America. She is co-principal investigator of the Children’s HealthWatch national surveillance study and founder of Witnesses to Hunger. Her work spans across a variety of issues that affect low-income families.

Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive director, National Nurses United
DeMoro is executive director of the largest professional and labor organization of registered nurses in the U.S. She’s also one of America’s preeminent advocates for healthcare reform and working people. A champion of the “Robin Hood Tax,” she’s been on Modern Healthcare magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in healthcare for 10 years.


Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, U.S. Congress (D-OH)
In her fourth term in Congress, Rep. Fudge serves on the Agriculture Committee, where she works to end childhood obesity in a generation, stamp out hunger and monitor the safety of the U.S. food supply, and on the Education and the Workforce Committee, advocating for policies to strengthen the education system and promote job creation. Earlier this month, Fudge became chair of Congressional Black Caucus.


Newt Gingrich, Former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House
Before running for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, Dr. Gingrich taught college courses, represented Georgia in Congress for 20 years and was active in public policy debates after leaving office. He’s widely recognized for his commitment to a better system of health for all Americans, has founded policy think tanks and is a best-selling author.


John D. Graham, Dean, Indiana University School of Public & Environmental Affairs
In 2008, when Dr. Graham became dean of one of the largest public policy schools in the U.S., he brought extensive experience in university and government settings. He was previously dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School and on the faculty of Harvard’s School of Public Health, where he founded and led its Center for Risk Analysis.


Jonathan Kozol, Education advocate-author, Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America
Since giving up the prospect of a secure career in the academic world during the civil rights campaigns of 1964 and 1965, Kozol has devoted nearly his entire life to the challenge of providing equal opportunity within public schools to every child. He’s the most widely read education writer in America.


Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Columbia University’s Earth Institute
Named twice to Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential world leaders, the world-renowned economist is a leading voice for combining economic development with environmental sustainability. Dr. Sachs is a best-selling author and co-founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit aimed at ending extreme global poverty. He previously spent more than 20 years at Harvard.


Cornel West, Union Theological Seminary professor-author
Dr. West is a professor, scholar and best-selling author, who’s written/edited more than 20 books, including the classic text, Race Matters, and The New York Times best seller, Democracy Matters. Outside of academia, he’s been described as an “intellectual provocateur,” with lectures, TV and film appearances and his spoken-word CDs. He’s also taught at Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

  • Diana Pacin-deGongora

    I love the series . . . thank you for bringing to us this long needed conversation.

    My question is:

    Why don’t we bring manufacturing jobs back to America?

    My parents immigrated from Cuba in 1970. My mom worked as a seamstress at a clothing factory earning a decent salary, that together with my dad’s, as a construction equipment operator, fed us, educated us, in short, made the American Dream a reality for our family. Our parents made this happen for me and my two sisters.

    Now those factories have moved abroad. We wouldn’t have been able to make it in the current economic climate.

    Can Congress figure out a way of making it profitable for big corporations to bring manufacturing jobs back to America?

    Thank you.

  • CH

    Love this panel series…..So glad to see a discussion from so many perspectives and strong voices. I hope this reaches the governing body and a working group is put together to address this. So good!

  • Prissy Jackson

    I’ve been tuning into the series and I’m learning a lot about the political games played to perpetuate poverty and racial disparity .

  • Deborah Weise

    Thank you so much for your dedication to ending poverty. I love you guys!

  • Katherine

    The media needs to work together, and get all Americans to understand that these problems are not going away, by their self. One of the speakers on the panel said,” there are some people who are try to make a choice to keep the lights on, and the heat, or buy food”. In the county were I live, married families children, get help last, and to me; all amercans should be able to live with out fear of not being able to feed there child, or keep their heat, and lights on. I have worked all my life careing for others, and as a mother of a sick child, and I have worked as a child day care provider for ten years. I did everything to help parents that needed a ride to work, or even a place to live until they could get on there feet. I am ready to graduate with my Bachelor Degree as a child development specilist. This country needs to wake up, and see educateing children and families on diversity of all kinds, and we need to all work together, so all children and families are not suffering. Amercans need jobs, and the more the media and public talk, more people will get on board, and thank you for all the support.

  • Linda

    Great discussion. In these times of 24/7 negative news please let us know the positive things that are happening, We need to know where the good is, and then how to get involved with those organizations. It is not helpful to continually hear how bad things are without a direction to exactly how to help make changes. /

  • Sara Honeycutt

    Today I sat in the kitchen of an elderly woman I was cooking lunch for, a simple lunch that I cannot afford for myself right now, watching this show that was on and choking back tears at the words of Mariana Chilton and Rep. Fudge. Yes, women in poverty, families like mine that cannot afford to buy enough food or shoes for our kids, INTELLIGENT people with college degrees and disabilities and jobs we can’t get, food stamp programs we do not qualify for, disability compensation we cannot get….with the dilemma of any time I spend putting my head in the political direction to fight it is that much time taken away from the direct need here at home, and that much less energy to make ends meet TODAY. There has got to be another way.

  • ally

    Dear Tavis I to practice humbly ” As Always KEEP THE FAITH” Thank You for a well deserved and researched public forum that always seeks and speaks the truth.

  • London Arango

    Dear Brothers Mr. Smiley and Dr. Cornel West,
    I want urge all my friends and family to view the videos of your panelist discussing your tour on poverty. Mr. Smiley and Dr. Cornel West are talking about me! My present experience being unemployed for over a year now, but also the me that was employed/underemployed, under paid and invisible to the world around me. I’m part of the poor population that is only economically challenged, yet this does not speak to my having character flaws…
    I am a worker, far from lazy, and have a resume filled with Human Service experience that span more than 10 years in mostly nonprofit organizations. I want to assist in helping those who do not have a voice: God’s children! I am filled with sadness, loneliness, and mostly anger! I’m not afraid to speak out, yet my voice is muted to a world that only listens to those with college degrees and possess of a certain income… Why am I and millions of other so invisible when we are the majority? I’m not ashamed to say I am poor, yet I’m slowly becoming ashamed to say I’m an American.
    I want to inspire and encourage all of you to be a light to those in your family and in your communities. If all we can do is work on being less judgmental it will benefit the world. We, black, brown, yellow, red, and white people are all brothers and sisters and should love on each other the way Jesus loves us. Loving is free and doesn’t cost a thing. Ask yourselves, what it was that gave you permission to believe that you are better than someone else. Or is it that you think poor people are unworthy of having healthier, happier lives? This way of thinking is unfair and these thoughts are usually something that we learned and can then be unlearned. Stop the madness, stop throwing stones, have forgiveness, believe that everyone wants to be loved and given the chance to be the best them they can be… No one has “done it” alone; therefore, it’s ok to ask for help. I want to be part of the solution. I’m ready and willing to join Mr. Smiley and Dr. West on their journey to bring about awareness to America!
    I am the face of poverty in America. Some of you will continue to love me and some of you will be embarrassed. I will love all of you.
    This is it folks! The planet we live on will be destroyed if we don’t wake up and fight for each other.
    With God’s Love, Your Brother,
    London Arango

Last modified: January 19, 2014 at 9:22 pm