Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement protest outside One Chase Manhattan Plaza, New York, the United States, Oct. 12, 2011. [Xinhua/Fan Xia]
"The greatest exercise for the human heart is to reach down and lift another up."
This single sentence lingered in my head long after I'd finished reading True North, a 2007 best-seller about "authentic leadership" and corporate social responsibilities.
During a lecture he gave at Cornell University on Thursday, Bill George, the chief author of the book, encouraged students to be a new generation of leaders who stay true to their hearts. George also repeated the mantra, "My generation messed up." He ascribed the entire economic downturn and turmoil in recent years to a failure of leadership, especially from Wall Street.
When asked about the Occupy Wall Street movement now spreading all over the United States, Bill George frowned and said, "They are holding up mirrors for us, and asking: 'do you like what you see in it?' I don't like what I see. That's myself...that I don't like."
Ever since the first group of young people gathered near Wall Street in mid-September, the protest has been criticized for being fluid, fractured, lacking a clear goal, and aimed at the wrong target. Yet, after more than a month of demonstrations and protestors "occupying" more than 450 locations in the U.S., "leaders" in the country eventually realized that they have to face the truth: something is going wrong.
It is easy to understand that from the Wall Street black-ties' point of view, a bunch of youngsters dancing, painting, and playing musical instruments near the Financial District is pure fandangle. But now, with hundreds of thousands of people voicing the same concerns, the message is clear: economic and social inequality has increasingly become a problem.
The income ratio in the U.S. was 14.5 to 1 in 2010, which almost doubled the ratio of 1968 (7.69 to 1). Today, the top 20% of Americans are earning roughly half of the nation's income, whereas 15% of the population below the poverty line is only making 3.4%. While protestors' claims that "1% of the people have 99% of the wealth" may not be accurate, the anger and depression among the "have-nots" are real.