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Former President Bill Clinton has used what is a considerable magnetic force to raise millions of dollars to provide relief to victims of Katrina, the Indonesian tsunami and most recently the California fires. In his recently released book on philanthropy, “Giving,” he discusses ways we could all realize the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, which are to cut by half the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015; halve the number of hungry and those who lack access to clean water; to ensure at least a primary school education for all children and end sex disparity in school attendance; to reduce maternal and child mortality by two-thirds, and to reverse the incidence of HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and other infectious diseases.

In the book, he also muses on the differences in giving:

“Why do some people give so much while others give the bare minimum or not at all? I've thought about this a lot and it seems to me we all give for a combination of reasons, rooted in what we think about the world in which we live and what we think about ourselves. We give because we think it will help people today or give our children a better future; because we feel morally obligated to do so out of religious or ethical convictions; because someone we know and respect asked us; or because we find it more rewarding and more enjoyable than spending money on material possessions or more time on recreation or work.

“When people don't give, I think the reasons are simply the reverse. They don't believe what they could do would make a difference, either because their resources are limited or they're convinced efforts to change other people's lives and conditions are futile. They don't feel morally obligated to give. No one has ever asked them to do so. And they believe they'll enjoy life more if they keep their money and time for themselves and their families. ...

“So much of modern culture is characterized by stories of self-indulgence and self-destruction. So much of modern politics is focused not on honest differences of policy but on personal attacks. So much of modern media is dominated by people who earn fortunes by demeaning others, defining them by their worst moments, exploiting their agonies. Who's happier? The uniters or the dividers? The builders or the breakers? The givers or the takers?

“I think you know the answer. There's a whole world out there that needs you, down the street or across the ocean. Give.”

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