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Confronting the Poverty of Satisfaction

Confronting the Poverty of Satisfaction

I’m home sick with the flu and the thought of writing a cohesive piece is beyond what my foggy mind can comprehend right now.  So rather than skipping this week, I figured I’d pass along part of a speech give by Robert Kennedy at the University of Kansas in 1968.  It’s always been a favorite of mine and my hope is that you will find the same simple truths in it as I always have.



Even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction–purpose and dignity–that afflicts us all.  Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.

Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product–if we judge the United States of America by that–that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.  It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.  It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.  It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

–Robert Kennedy

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Dave Chameides

Dave Chameides is a filmmaker and environmental educator. His website and newsletter are designed to inspire thought and dialogue on environmental solutions and revolve around the idea that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. "Give people the facts, and they'll choose to do the right thing."


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1:33AM PST on Mar 2, 2015


12:35AM PDT on May 27, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

12:09PM PDT on Mar 13, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

1:50PM PST on Jan 31, 2013

Canadian. Never got GNP in school. I have everything I need although none of it is high quality except for the cats. Everything materialistic that is as my needs in that area are not so big. People view quality of life as having it all. We cannot have it all. If we need to fill our hearts something in our business lives has to give. If we want to be in that top 1% we will have to let go of emotions that cause us to need people as we will not have time for them.

2:14AM PST on Jan 31, 2013

Beautiful speech by Robert Kennedy. I hadn't read it before, so thanks for sharing.

4:20AM PST on Nov 30, 2012

Good article, thank you

2:44PM PDT on May 25, 2012

You ain't a kidd'n!

11:26PM PDT on May 5, 2012

Some countries have happiness/quality of life indices.

12:20PM PST on Jan 15, 2012


10:43AM PST on Jan 15, 2012


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