by Kathie England


Tightrope, the title of the newest book by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is the metaphor describing the life of America’s working class for whom one misstep is frequently a catastrophe. “Stagnant wages, weak education, bad decisions and a lack of healthcare force millions of Americans into a precarious balancing act that many of them fail to master.”

Speaking in Portland, Oregon earlier this month they posed three questions often heard as they researched their book:

  • Isn’t this crisis really about personal responsibility?
  • Isn’t this situation really hopeless?
  • Why should I care?

With vivid examples, many of them drawn from Yamhill, Oregon where Nick grew up, Kristof and WuDunn offer an alternate view. If America is to remain vital, it must empower all its people.

They shared stunning statistics from research by Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution. For people who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before having children, only 2 percent live in poverty. Of those who do none of those three things, 79 percent live in poverty.

Kristof and WuDunn acknowledge that many individuals do make irresponsible choices, yet the results are also caused by the collective irresponsibility of society. They propose three solutions that could dramatically impact the lives of working class Americans:

  • Early childhood education
  • Drug rehabilitation
  • Job creation

How does this conversation fit with My 1000 Small Steps?

Each of their books ends with “Ten Steps You Can Take in the Next Ten Minutes to Make a Difference.” Here is one of the ten steps from Tightrope: sponsor a child in the United States through Save the Children On this website you can click the link about sponsoring children in the U.S.

I just sponsored a five-year-old girl. Will you accept this challenge and do the same?