First Person

Why it’s important to still talk about right and wrong

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Yes, things aren’t always clear-cut—but calling out the injustices in our world, and defining them as such, can help us change it.

One of the things you learn early on in life is the difference between right and wrong. Bullying is wrong. Being kind to others is right. Stealing is wrong. Sharing with others is right. It felt fairly straightforward then.

As we get older though, the black and white picture of right and wrong becomes increasingly gradient—filled with countless shades of gray. Life is complicated.

Framing things as wrong as an adult can feel simplistic. But I think it’s important that we call out those things that remain objectively wrong in our world.

For me, that contrast between wrong and right appeared sharpest five years ago when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I received excellent care at Dana Farber in Boston, but it was a rough summer, especially since it came just as I was graduating college. I had the best resources available to me, and so I was treated and remain cancer free.

What I have struggled with ever since, though, is the idea that I can be cured of this complex disease, but on the same planet, in the same time, a young person just like me can die from something as easy to prevent and treat as cholera, to name one example. To recover from cholera, all you need are rehydration salts, and to prevent it, you just need the basics of safe drinking water and sanitation. Yet this disease takes more than 100,000 lives each year.

Acknowledging the injustices in our world—the fact that so many people lack access to the basic needs that many of us enjoy in abundance—is really tough. Because these injustices are wrong. A hard look reveals a system that is wrong.

At Oxfam America we recently drafted and shared an expression of our core beliefs. It begins by calling out the injustice; the fact that nearly one in every three of us lives in poverty. But it doesn’t end there.

“We won’t stand by silently and watch others suffer. Instead, we stand together against injustice.” (Tweet this)

I was so struck by these words that I felt inspired to produce a video, above, to help us share our beliefs with a wider audience.

The video is far from a polished marketing effort. The people proclaiming these words are not actors. Everyone in this video works at or volunteers for Oxfam, whether from our offices in Boston and DC; a rooftop in Senegal to a college campus in New England; Capitol Hill to the streets of Cambodia and Peru. Just like me, each person has her or his own reasons to believe in these words about right and wrong. Together, this truly is who we are.

How do you define your beliefs? If these words resonate with you, I hope you’ll help us keep the conversation going and share this video with a wider community. It is only through the outward expression of our shared beliefs that we can paint a new picture of our world.

This is our rallying cry. Let’s cry it out and rally people behind our movement to right the wrong. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+