Diane Sawyer Special Examines Poverty in N.J.
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
If you've been listening to this and other NPR Programs this week, you may have noticed that we've been featuring stories on Crossing the Divide, where we take a look at how Americans are reaching out to others who are different from themselves - either because of race, politics, class or religion. We learned that our colleagues over at ABC News are airing a program tonight that touches on those issues, so we decided to tell you about it.
It's called "Waiting on the World to Change." It follows the lives of three children in one of the poorest cities in the country, a city that happens to be only 10 minutes away from one of the wealthiest. The program will air on ABC's "20/20" tonight. And it was reported by Diane Sawyer, who, in her day job, is the anchor of "Good Morning America."
She's joining us now to tell us about it. Welcome, Diane.
Ms. DIANE SAWYER (Anchor, "Good Morning America"): Hi, Michel.
MARTIN: How did this program come about?
Ms. SAWYER: You know, we were sitting around a while back and thinking it's been a long time since we saw just daily reality of the lives of, what are we saying, 17 percent of the child population in this country, 13 million kids who live in poverty. And we wanted to know what that was like. You know, we see with vividness African poverty and Asian Third-World poverty. But it's been a long time since we just looked at what it's like hour-by-hour, day-by-day.
MARTIN: You mainly only follow three kids from Camden, New Jersey, which is cheek by jowl to Morristown, New Jersey.
Ms. SAWYER: That's right.
MARTIN: We're going to play a very short clip. First we're going to hear from the kids from Morristown.
(Soundbite of TV show, "Good Morning America") Ms. SAWYER: We asked some of the tiny residents to tell us about their home. If I've never been to Morristown, what do I see?
Unidentified Child #1: Pretty houses.
Ms. SAWYER: Trees?
Unidentified Child #2: Yeah.
Ms. SAWYER: Flowers?
Unidentified Child #1: Yes.
Unidentified Child #2: Yeah.
Ms. SAWYER: You think you're lucky?
Unidentified Child #1: Uh huh.
(Soundbite of Bruce Springsteen song, "My Hometown")
Ms. SAWYER: The children of Morristown love where they live. For kids, 10 minutes away in Camden, New Jersey can only dream of a home like that.
MARTIN: So if you could ask them anything, what will it be?
Ms. SAWYER: Do they hear gunshots where they live at? Do they see people dying for no reason?
MARTIN: Then you're immediately struck by how differently the kids see the world.
Ms. SAWYER: Oh, yes and the sweetness of the kids on both sides. You know we even - we followed them for a year. And we see the differences in Christmas for the two groups. And some of it is as simple as just saying to the kids of a town like Morristown, and it's all across the country, to all of us - what would you like for Christmas? And you hear them start reeling their lists. And you say it to the kids of Camden and there's a long pause, and one of them says a better job for my mom. And you realize that what we do instinctively in so much of America, is simply not even in the dream of so many of these kids.
MARTIN: It would've been very compelling just to live with the kids from Camden, just to talk about - like this one little boy that struck me, who when on his first day of school, didn't know that you were supposed to eat three meals a day.
Ms. SAWYER: Yes.
MARTIN: But you made a decision not just to live in that story but also to go to Morristown. Why did you want to do that?
Ms. SAWYER: Well, because Morristown is all of us. And we know that, you know, are these kids starving in a way that we see in Africa? No. But are there real consequences for the fact that the end of the month, there is very little to eat and the nutrition is debilitating in so many cases.
And also, I mean simple things like, you know, the studies that have shown that kids from these low-income families, enter school with a vocabulary of about 3,000 words. The rest of us enter school with 20,000 words. So, they have to be little supermen in order to overcome what the rest of us simply can take for granted.
MARTIN: I notice that you've done a lot of projects throughout your career where you focused on kids in all kinds of circumstances. I remember you did a story about the family of sextuplets.
Ms. SAWYER: Yeah.
MARTIN: And you've done a story about lots of kids in difficult circumstances. You did a program on foster care. What is it that fascinates you about kids?
Ms. SAWYER: When you're with kids, they're unfiltered, so that you can see the do have a feeling you're seeing things that you could not see any other way. And they - and the simplicity of the way they talk to you and speak to you.
And you know when you're watching them they are telling you the truth, because they haven't built up the armor that we have by the time we've become adults.
MARTIN: Diane Sawyer, thank you so much for joining us.
Ms. SAWYER: Okay. Thank you, Michel.
MARTIN: The program is called Waiting on the World to Change. It airs on ABC's