Last weekend, two very kind-hearted Duke alums happily took my group and I on a boat tour of Balboa Island as well as opened their home to us for dinner. I am extremely grateful for Max and Artyn Gardner ’78 as their generosity and hospitality have been fundamental to this particular Duke Engage program.
On this boat tour, not only did I observe the affluence of the people living on the island, but I felt it. Sunday, 7/22/18, was the first time I had ever been on a privately-owned boat. It seemed surreal to me that luxurious houses and docks with boats tied to them were the people of Balboa Island’s “norm.” As everyone felt overjoyed by the clear water and indescribable views, I personally felt uncomfortable the whole way through.
With parents originating from humble beginnings in Ghana, West Africa, they’ve instilled in my sisters and I the importance of humility. Absorbing the wealth and lavish lifestyles in Balboa Island, I suddenly realized how easy it would be to lose touch with the harsh realities of modern wealth distributions. That was just one of several reasons why the boat tour was distressing.
Just a month before this Duke Engage program began, my family and I vacationed in Ghana to visit friends and family. Although most people’s general perceptions of African countries are flawed, there is some truth to it. Desolate areas exist as I bore witness to it. There are people who do not have a steady income, others who do not know when their next meal will be or where it will come from, and children who walk miles to attend school everyday. Needless to say, the stark contrast between the two lifestyles is severe.
Seeing firsthand how large the wealth gap is is personally jarring as the affluent seem so oblivious to the struggles of the lower classes. Common questions ran through my mind during the tour. Why does the wealth gap exist? Why aren’t the efforts to decrease the wealth gap effective? Will the economy in these third-world countries ever develop? Although this matter is just one of several social issues, I think it needs to be addressed. What advances are the United States making to abate the wealth gap in the United States and potentially around the world?
As the questions that raced through my mind during the tour still linger in my subconscious, I for one cannot answer these questions. Is there really no answer to these questions or do the people with the power have the resources to find the answers but don’t because they benefit from it?