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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What would Harry do?

What would Harry do?

I see our efforts in Haiti and I can’t help but think of Somalia – and with thoughts of Somalia, invariably come thoughts of folk singer, Harry Chapin. Harry died in 1981 and amongst his accomplishments as a singer, he really did his best for a single cause – ending world hunger.

Harry was a writer of unusual skill. He had the ability to take snapshots of everyday people’s lives and translate those into perfect, simple songs that touched people from all walks of life. He wrote about soldiers and lovers, the lost and the found. He painted pictures in music of dreamers and those who have forgotten how to dream. But amidst it all – just as his career was finally taking off, and people were finally just beginning to listen – he died in a highway accident on the way to a benefit concert.

I believe if he were alive today, Harry would be all over the disaster in Haiti. He would probably be one of the first people on the ground there – and he would have gone if he had to row a boat there, himself. Perhaps there are those who would dispute the man based on his politics, but he would have been there handing out food or comforting the wounded and dying. Every year at least half his concerts were free, either for charity or benefit.

Where are the people like Harry today?

There are some out there. There’s Kelsey Grammer who has set up a matching grant for Haiti relief for children and Sandra Bullock, who donated $1 million toward earthquake relief. There’s Madonna who gave $250,000. A George Clooney and Brad Pitt organization “Not on Our Watch,” also donated $1 million. Pitt and Angelina Jolie pledged $1 million and actress Alyssa Milano gave $50,000. Lance Armstrong’s foundation has also put in $250,000.

In fact, $567.67 million, has so far been pledged to help in Haiti, by individuals, countries, companies and international organizations. But please set that number in contrast to what has been used here in the U.S. recently, to grease certain lawmakers – simple greed alone in our own government, has trumped the combined efforts of all these various efforts by contributors to the humanitarian effort in Haiti.

In addition to money donations, Suriname has sent military and police personnel as well as blankets and rice. Bolivia has sent blood for transfusions and food for the people. Even Venezuela, Bangladesh and the Philippines have responded.

But the regular people of America would likely make Chapin the proudest, were he alive today. Several hundred thousand people have made personal donations through the Red Cross. A massive military response to aid survivors was launched by the U.S. Our country has sent in a powerful combination of forces to fight the immense challenges in Haiti. Navy ships, helicopters, transport planes, Marine Expeditionary Forces, USAF Special Forces and many others have been sent in. Just today, 2,000 Marines were diverted from their deployment in the Middle East, to Haiti.

Is it enough? I don’t know.

Harry Chapin had a favorite saying. He exhorted people to simply “do something.” And I believe there are plenty who are. I recently printed a response I received from the White House, to the only thing I really had to offer – my own person. As a former veteran of Operation Restore Hope, Somalia, I would be happy to sit in a closet in a basement somewhere, and answer phones, if it would free up just one active-duty troop to go over and do their thing. I would be happy to help man the lines loading aircraft or unloading aircraft. I would be happy to assist in any regard – digging for survivors, burying the dead, handing out water and food, caring for the injured. I don’t care what it takes.

Maybe it’s just me, but I bet there are a lot of folks out there who would gladly answer a call by Uncle Sam to go back to Active Duty and meet the crisis head-on. Couldn't there be a network set up for U.S. military disabled or discharged volunteers? How many of us in these ranks could still “do something?”

Because politics don’t mean squat when people’s lives are at stake. What matters is not some broad notion involving saving the world, but rather providing simple decency and reaching out to people just like you - separated by geography and circumstance alone. These things are done one person at a time, one day at a time. And they are done by people who care.

Let’s do something.


Here is the link to Kelsey Grammer's site. He is providing a great relief program for children of Haiti ...

Here is an obituary which ran in the Washington Post, July 17, 1981, on Harry and his life.

Harry's family website can be viewed here.

Below is some data I received from a government source I have – ways you can help right now.

State Department provided the following info regarding support. In addition you can direct folks to the White House / State Dept sites: and


Financial Donations

o Donate $10 to the American Red Cross – charged to your cell phone bill – by texting "HAITI" to "90999."

o Contribute online to the Red Cross

Find more ways to help through the Center for International Disaster Information .

Private Offers of Assistance for Haiti Relief Efforts

U.S. citizens who wish to contribute to the relief effort for Haiti after the earthquake, either online or by text message, can visit the White House web site . Additionally, persons who wish to provide assistance or expertise in Haiti are asked to contact the Center for International Disaster Information. The Center, operated under a grant from the United States Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, has established a dedicated page to coordinate Haiti support .

Read the warning from the FBI on Haitian Earthquake Relief Fraud and Scams

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