AT's Blog – From A to T

Occasional observations and random musings from Cali to DC

Facebook Makes Some New “Friends” in Newark, NJ!

Posted by ataylorblog on September 25, 2010

Yesterday, in front of a worldwide audience, Facebook co-founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a magnanimous donation of $100 million to Newark’s school system.  The gift is the first donation  (hopefully of many) granted from a foundation he formed to support education programs.

Sadly, I was traveling (to Chicago nonetheless) and missed the show since Oprah airs in the morning here Chicago-land.   I DVR’d the episode, so I’ll have to reserve final judgement on the announcement until later.  A simple stroll through the channels last night produced a pretty good synopsis of the entire show or at least the relevant parts of the show.  From what I can gather, it was another great “AHA” moment during Oprah’s 25th and final season.  Lots of smiles.  Lots of hugs.  Lots of applauding.  And, during the evening talk show circuit…lots of skepticism.

While I admittedly haven’t followed Zuckerberg’s story (or the story of Facebook) that much up to this point, it seems like naysayers are questioning the motives and timing behind this enormous philanthropic gesture. Sounds like these pundits feel that with the movie The Social Network coming out in the New York Film Festival on Friday, Zuckerberg was trying to sway public opinion about his self-esteem (or lack thereof).

I for one don’t really care if the guy is insecure or not. What I do care about is that this twenty-something has, in an instant, potentially changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children & families in the Newark area for generations to come.

Yes, it is crucial that they allocate the funds strategically while formulating a long-term plan, but I have no doubt that the current leadership in Newark (Cory Booker) will develop an appropriate strategy that ultimately generates the results we are hoping for.

The truth is, though, that the education system in this great nation of ours is far from adequate, especially in our inner cities.  I personally find this unacceptable.  How can the most powerful country in the world continue to witness such an enormous education gap?  We can’t all write a check with 8 zeros on it, but there are a multitude of ways that we can make a huge difference in the lives of the future leaders of the world.  Selfish intentions or not, I believe that Zuckerberg has inspired a new generation of philanthropist.  I know I am inspired by his gesture.

Why did he choose Newark?  That was the first question that popped into my head when the rumor started circulating earlier this week.

Well aside from the fact that Newark is a very attractive market just on the west side of the Hudson River from the mecca of the world known as New York City, I think his decision to select Newark had a great deal to do with the mayor of Newark, Cory Booker.

I’m definitely on “Team Cory” and here’s why I think teaming up with Mayor Booker (& the Governor of NJ) makes sense:

1. Cory Booker is undoubtedly one of the rising superstars in politics & has garnered a significant amount of attention and acclaim for his commitment to Newark & his political savvy.
2. Cory & Oprah seem to have a strong relationship built on respect and admiration for one another. Not that the Zuckerberg team couldn’t pull this off on their own, but there’s no doubt that if you want to get to Oprah, I’m sure Cory can help with that. Once you’re on the Oprah show, the rest is history. I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t love to come up with a product or book & get on Oprah to promote it. That 60 minutes of answering questions, would change ones life forever.
3. Cory is definitively one of the mayors in this country who is genuinely committed to affecting change in their communities. He has done an amazing job in Newark in a short amount of time & while there is a long way to go, I don’t doubt that we will see a dynamic change in Newark in the next decade as a result of his leadership.
4. Cory has taken to social networking & leveraged Facebook and Twitter very effectively as a way to communicate with his constituents. Who better to partner with then someone engaged in using your product?

Many refer to the premiere of The Social Network to illustrate why Zuckerberg chose Friday to unveil his plan. I point to the premiere of “Waiting for Superman” to reinforce why we are lucky that this young man used his resources to do good in a city that desperately needs someone to stand up for it.  Superman doesn’t exist, but for the children in Newark, maybe some superhero dressed as a teacher will show up in their classroom in the near future.

Last night, we caught a few minutes of a panel discussion on this exact topic on Fox News (a station I don’t typically frequent). Panelists questioned whether Oprah’s involvement was good or bad and if “we” were asking tough questions about “how” the money would be used. But when one panelist (I didn’t recognize him) inferred that the problem with Newark’s school system & the children in it was not about the lack of resources but instead about the lack of discipline, I realized that this country has a long way to go before we will truly be ready to tackle the education crisis & to close the gap between those of who are fortunate enough to have access and those who face several challenges (self-imposed and otherwise).

There is no quick fix, but I applaud the young billionaire (regardless of his motives) for using his wealth & stature to address our concerns.  Newark is one of many markets that is in desperate need of the resources that will allow them to educate our children.  There will be many mistakes along the way, but if one more life is changed as a result…I say bravo!

4 Responses to “Facebook Makes Some New “Friends” in Newark, NJ!”

  1. Sharon said

    Excellent points Angela. However, please do not fall in love with Newark, and leave the Mystics for the Liberty. Please don’t break our heart!

  2. Jeff Janssen said

    Great stuff Angela! Kristi and I are big Cory Booker fans too. And you can’t trash a guy for giving $100 Million when so many people don’t even give $100.

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