Personal Ethics and Social Responsibility: a Sampler of Recent Public Voices Fellowship Op-Eds

First off, it’s been quite a week for bosoms. TIME‘s May 21st, 2012 cover of 26-year-old Jamie Lynne Grument breast-feeding her 3-year-old son was met with many an elevated brow and a volley of pieces that wonder what such an involved mothering style means for the health of children, the financial state of families, and modern feminism.

Entering the fray was our own Princeton Public Voices fellow, Elizabeth Mitchell Armstrong whose piece on formula and breast-feeding, “Maternity Ward Swag”, appeared in the New York Times yesterday. Citing mothers’ milk as an essential protection against childhood obesity, diabetes, certain respiratory and ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome, Armstrong says that the support of hospitals must be enlisted to increase the number of women who breast-feed. She points to the relationship between formula-manufacturers and hospitals as an obstacle, noting that the hospitals push formula samples in exchange for much-needed supplies. An important critique of the industrial facet of the breast-or-bottle debate that receives less attention than the ethical or ideological concerns. Thank you and congrats, Elizabeth!

Also running with the corporate theme was Dawn Lerman of Fordham’s Center for Positive Marketing who co-wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post about Wal-Mart‘s  recent scandal in Mexico. Allegedly, Wal-Mart de Mexico spent $24 million dollars on bribes to assure their market dominance south of the border and then covered up the findings of their own internal investigation.

Wal-Mart’s ethical failure is not something that Lerman revels in. Instead, she expresses her vexation with a company that is so hugely philanthropic, has a direct positive impact on the lives of its customers, and yet sabotages itself with royal ethical fumbles like this one. Good deeds are mitigated by bad ones, and if Wal-Mart wants to be a leader in social responsibility, says Lerman, it needs to clean up its act. Congratulations to Dawn!

Maya Rockeymoore of the Public Voices Fellowship at the Insight Center’s Closing the Race Wealth Gap Initiative, published a piece responding to Alice Randall’s controversial editorial in the New York Times which argues that black women are the most overweight group in America because they “want to be.”

Rockeymoore, who directs a program that helps policymakers address childhood obesity, has a long history with the issue of weight and the complex interplay of factors that causes certain people to be fat. Environment, she says, plays a tremendous role. Citing the dearth of green spaces, swimming pools, recreational facilities and sports clubs in neighborhoods with high concentrations of African American residents, Rockeymoore refutes Randall’s claim that black women are fat out of a desire to be that way, and instead proposes that obesity is an issue in this population because access to healthy choices is much more limited.

Thank you to all those who published! We feel the impact of your arguments every day that that you choose to make them heard. Congratulations and keep up the amazing work!

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