Rousseau once bemoaned the fact that only in times of crisis would people be able to truly understand the character of those around them, for it was only in times of stress that people's true natures were revealed. Crisis and tragedy strip away the cultural varnish of convenience and luxury that hides our basic human needs and wants. Crises lay our souls bare for all to see. In these moments, history gives us the opportunity for greatness.
The massive tsunami that hit South-East Asia was numbing in its power and scope. However, most deaths associated with these sorts of events do not come from the initial incident; they happen as a result of the devastated infrastructure. The Red Cross was on the scene within hours providing food, water and medicine. However, providing simple tools for survival will only keep those affected alive. It cannot restore their previous security.
Sustained commitment to those in dire need of support is in the long-term strategic interest of the United States. By forging a relationship of solidarity and assistance, we implicitly demonstrate the benefits of freedom. We lead by example. Announcements from the floor of the U.N. are fine and dandy, but a check for tens of thousands of dollars carries with it the ability to impact lives.
Waning interest and lagging funding still threaten millions. That is where we come in.
The Student Skyscraper Challenge (SSC) was organized in the days following the tsunami. The purpose is to give students the ability to make serious contributions to disaster relief. For the past month, SSC has been planning a major fundraiser: a stair-climb at the Sears Tower.
The stair climb, which will occur on April 16, will raise money by asking entrants to raise at least $70 by signing up sponsors who, upon their climber's successful completion of the endeavor, will donate money to the SSC's chosen charity for this yearDirect Relief International.
For more than fifty years, Direct Relief International has provided medicine, essential equipment, and supplies to victims of tragedy across the globe. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event will go directly to those who need it most. Students, staff, and faculty from three major universities, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northwestern University, are invited to enter.
This event will affirm the civic virtues we feel are necessary to carry out the implicit Chicago mission, "to enrich human life." This happens not only through U of C students helping "knowledge grow from more to more," but also with charitable good works that demonstrate our commitment to humanity.
The SSC is also hoping to export the idea to other universities across the world, and to hold the event yearly. But first, we need to make this event a success. Interested students can sign up by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or help us organize by attending one of our weekly meetings, announced on The Facebook and the SSC Listhost (email@example.com).
Are you willing to take three hours, climb a building, donate some money, and save the world? We're convinced, but there's only so much convincing the written word can do, so we're done writing. Now it's up to you to make a decision in your own heart to climb or donate.
See you on the way up.