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DukeEngage NOLA provides a well-rounded immersion into public policy and healthcare, specifically with regards to New Orleans. Through Tuesday evening group reflection, Thursday night dinners with guest speakers, and organized weekend activities, the 14 Duke students benefit from not just their own placement experiences but also those of their peers. New Orleans is fertile ground for non-profit work and learning about the needs of the most vulnerable and at-risk populations within the United States.

As an econ minor with an interest in business and belief in the transformative power of the capitalist free market, this summer is offering a glimpse into the important role that non-profits play within society. The Covenant House (homeless shelter), Audrey Hepburn Care Center (child abuse center), and Red Cross would not exist in a world without donations, federal grants, or charitable giving. We need such organizations to pick up those that have fallen and help them regain the strength necessary to participate in a competitive workplace. While I still maintain a healthy fear of runaway welfare and government aid that tends to perpetuate poverty rather than provide a cure, I am beginning to see that a healthy balance can be reached that promotes rather than hinders the free market.

Over the course of evolution, life has evolved from single cell organisms to human beings capable of forming complex societies where the strong help the weak, the healthy aid the sick. The United States may be the richest and most competitive of countries, but it is also the most generous and free. We have a society where individuals voluntarily give over $258 billion dollars to charity in a single year. I believe voluntary giving does much more to foster a community of civic virtue and goodwill than mandatory taxation.