“Changing the Face of Poverty,” Dr. Ronald Hill’s TEDx presentation

TEDxVillanovaU: Let’s Imagine brought students, faculty, and community members alike to hear talks, demonstrations and performances on a wide range of topics to promote learning, inspire listeners, and encourage conversations. Ronald Hill gave an especially intriguing talk entitled “Changing the Face of Poverty.” Dr. Hill had an interesting perspective on the issue of poverty given his background as a business professor here at Villanova.

He told one especially moving story of when he was a visiting professor at Cornell in the 1980s, a time when the AIDS epidemic was at its height. As a business professor he gave a lecture about how to market AIDS products and talked about theoretically what it was like to have AIDS. He had one student come up to him after the lecture and tell him that he had just been diagnosed with AIDS and the student was distraught. It was then that Dr. Hill realized that if we was going to do research and talk about issues that he had to talk with people who experienced the issues; he needed proximity.

Throughout his academic career, he has been involved in many studies and authored about 200 journal articles about his findings. He especially noted two studies. One study looked at poor children who lived in $30,000 homes and juxtaposed them with children who lived in $1 million homes. His research goal was to determine whether or not poor or disadvantaged children differ in how they interact with the world and see if poor children value material goods as much or more than affluent children. Normally in puberty, children become more attached to goods but as they grow older this materialism tends to taper off. But Dr. Hill found that poor children were more materialistic than affluent children at every stage and where affluent children’s materialistic tendency’s tapered off poor children’s materialism flatlined. He was shocked at these findings so he performed another study.

This time he took this study global and compared wealthy nations to poor nations and juxtaposed the haves and have nots of each country. He found that the haves from both poor and wealthy nations are more satisfied with what they have. But astonishingly, the gaps between satisfaction are significantly higher for the haves and have nots in poor nations than in wealthy nations. He compared it to having 1 cow or 3 cows vs. a Honda or a BMW; this put the distinction into perspective.

He ended his thought provoking talk with four thoughts that he wanted the audience to take away from the experience. The first was to suspend judgement on others and really listen to what they have to say. The second was to learn. He strongly encouraged the audience to learn about a specific topic and really research it. The third was to get proximal. By doing this you will not only find humanity in others but in yourself. The fourth and final thought was that we need political action. He said that politicians need to think about what makes this a better world and what laws and policies can be put into place to promote that.

He closed his talk with this especially moving challenge; “Imagine what poverty looks like and now imagine what one without poverty looks like. Now let’s make that happen.”