Tag Archives: CitySquare

You Get What You Pay Attention To — Consider Brazil’s Focus on Extreme Poverty

I have written before about this simple concept:  you get what you pay attention to.  (read this earlier blog post).  I am convinced that this is as true a maxim as you can find.  What gets attention determines the areas in which progress is made.  What is ignored goes downhill…  pretty quickly.

My friend, Larry James, is a genuine expert on poverty issues.  The CEO of CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries), Larry has a terrific blog.  (Larry James Urban Daily:  read it here).  In a recent post, he excerpted an article about the fight against poverty in Brazil.  Here’s a key portion:

Today, however, Brazil’s level of economic inequality is dropping at a faster rate than that of almost any other country. Between 2003 and 2009, the income of poor Brazilians has grown seven times as much as the income of rich Brazilians. Poverty has fallen during that time from 22 percent of the population to 7 percent.

Contrast this with the United States, where from 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the increase in Americans’ income went to the top 1 percent of earners.

Dilma Vana Rousseff, a Brazilian politician of Bulgarian origin, has formally been inaugurated as Brazil's 36 President.

Why is Brazil making such progress in its struggle against poverty?  Because… this is what they are paying attention to.  The people at the top pay attention to this problem – with serious focus.
Consider this portion of the inaugural address from the new President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, delivered Saturday, January 1, 2011. (find the full text here:

My Dear Brazilians,
My government’s most determined fight will be to eradicate extreme poverty and create opportunities for all.
We have seen significant social mobility during President Lula’s two terms. But poverty still exists to shame our country and prevent us from affirming ourselves fully as a developed people.
I will not rest while there are Brazilians who have no food on their tables, while there are desperate families on the streets, while there are poor children abandoned to their own devices. Family unity lies in food, peace and happiness. This is the dream I will pursue!
This is not the isolated task of one government, but a commitment to be embraced by all society. For this, I humbly ask for the support of public and private institutions, of all the parties, business entities and workers, the universities, our young people, the press and all those who wish others well.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at her inauguration

What do you pay attention to?  Whatever it is, it is likely that that is the area where you will make the most progress.

Listen to Larry James, CEO of CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries), interviewed by Krys Boyd on Think (90.1, KERA)

Larry James, CEO, CitySquare

I have written often about the event I speak at for CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries), the Urban Engagement Book Club.  Today, at the noon hour, Krys Boyd interviewed the CEO of CitySquare, Larry James.  Larry is a walking encyclopedia about many aspects of unmet and under-met human need, and through his leadership, CitySquare is truly making a difference, in Dallas, and in an ever-growing circle outward.

Go here to listen to a podcast of the interview.

{North Texas in Need
[2010-12-08 12:00:00] North Texas may be weathering the current economy better than many U.S. cities, but what’s the climate like for those who help the needy in our community? We’ll talk this hour with Larry James, President and CEO of City Square, which recently changed its name from Central Dallas Ministries.
Download MP3 File}

By the way, Public Radio has a true all-star line-up of world class interviewers.  They are able to let a guest speak clearly, giving us real insight into the message and the concerns of each guest.  We are familiar with the nationally known names:  Terry Gross, Diane Rehm.  Locally, Krys Boyd is a key part of that all-star line-up, and her interview with Larry was terrific.

Interested in Race and Politics? – Here’s a Book Worth Reading

Today, I am presenting a synopsis of the book Running on Race:  Racial Politics in Presidential Elections, 1960-2000 (New York:  Random House – 2002) by Jeremy D. Mayer.  This is this month’s selection for the Urban Engagement Book Club, an event sponsored by CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries).

The book selections (made by a group of leaders at CitySquare, with my recommendations and input) have provided me quite a mini-education in social justice and poverty.  Here’s the bad news:  the needs are growing greater in this country, and the progress…well, there’s not enough.  And in this current economic climate, the needs are getting greater, as donations are harder and harder to come by.

This book is worth reading.  The author acknowledges other racial divides as worthy of careful study, but his emphasis is on the black-white divide…

Here are some quotes from the book:

Race and the array of issues surrounding it have been crucial to every presidential election since 1960…  Every presidential candidate during this period has had to take positions on racial matters, and each campaign’s strategic choices were influenced by the racial environment of the election year… Race affected the presidential contest in years when race was central to the nation’s agenda and in years when race was submerged by a host of other issues.  Race always mattered in presidential campaigns…

Racial tensions will not disappear anytime soon, as long as segregation characterizes many of our neighborhoods, as long as racial profiling remains a problem in so many police departments, as long as some whites believe, openly or secretly, in black inferiority, and as long as racial preferences inflame racial animosities.

“The prejudices of centuries die hard, and even when they wane, the institutional frameworks that sustained them are bound to linger.”  (Sociologist Orlando Patterson).

The book has chapters, with fascinating details, on every presidential election from 1960 through 2000.

If this subject interests you at all, I commend this book.  It is a good, somewhat disturbing read.


If you live in the  DFW area, and are looking for a place that responsibly and effectively serves the needy among us, please consider a donation to CitySquare.  Click here to start that process.