Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Those Who Deserve Celebrity

I think we may have duped. I think we may have, somehow, gotten things a little backward. I think maybe, just maybe, we've been focusing our attention on the wrong people. Today, while going through my morning ritual of perusing the news, blogs and op/eds, amid the talk of BP, the Israeli flotilla debacle and AL primary results (sorry, Dale Peterson) I also caught plenty of pieces like this about Paris Hilton's foray at a Vegas nightclub where she (shockingly?) acted risque. However, I saw no mention of pieces like this (which I had to dig for) about Dr. Vincent Tuohy's possible discovery of a breast cancer vaccine.

I don't think I learned about Jonas Salk's polio vaccine in school and I'm certain I was never taught about Bill Gates or Nikola Tesla. These are people who gave the world great, important things. People who, through their inventiveness, vision and genius made the world a better place. In 2005, Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley founded Kiva, a microfinance institution based on Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank. K.R. Sridhar's Bloom Energy got some press when the Bloom Box was announced, but he's not quite a household name.

Sure, I understand that these people's inventions aren't sexy. I understand they don't live the fabulous lives and take the exotic vacations to the French Riviera we all envy and like to glimpse at on the Travel Channel, but come on, these people are amazing! Why are shoppers in line at the supermarket picking up People and reading about Tom Cruise's weird religious beliefs rather than finding out about an impressive new breakthrough that could save their lives? The stuff these people are coming up with is absolutely fascinating. Why don't we talk about them non-stop?

Guilty pleasures are fine and we all need the opportunity to sit back and tune out important stuff from time to time and just read something stupid. But the obsession we harbor for actors, musicians and socialites is getting out of control and overshadowing the importance of the wonderful work some people are doing, and have done, to make our world a better place. I'll step down off my soap box now, but a better balance between the banal and critical couldn't hurt.

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