Off Topic: Why People, Not Technology, Matter


I know this is a technology blog rather than a political or personal blog, but two things are weighing on my mind. First off is Obama’s speech last night. Regardless of your political leanings, his call for people to come together and take action for the greater good was inspiring. The second is Hurricane Gustav. These two events have the potential to reinforce the power that individual people have.

For as long as I’ve been paying attention, our politicians have asked little of us as citizens. After 9-11 we were told to go out and shop. During the 90s we were given welfare reform but there was no call for Americans to get out there and fight poverty. There has been no attempt to get people involved in solving real problems.

And that brings me to my second concern. Three years ago Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Biloxi, Miss., a town where my dad grew up and my extended family lives. All but one aunt and uncle lost their homes. The storm surge completely altered the town where I spent many a vacation eating biegnets at Mary Mahoney’s, visiting Jefferson Davis’s mansion and walking along the beach by Route 90 to see the lighthouse that my dad decorated for the holidays as teen. Now we’re hearing about Gustav and I can’t help remembering how terrifying and difficult Katrina was for my family.

But people came together. My former colleagues at The Deal gathered money, and out of the blue Fed-Exed me a substantial check for my family. When some of my family flew to Houston to stay with my parents, neighbors who heard that a cousin had a toddler but no toys, brought over a mountain of colored plastic that kept my cousin’s kid busy while the adults tried to figure out where everyone had evacuated to and how bad the damage was at home.

So last night hearing Obama ask the American people to take action for the greater good so close to a time when so many strangers helped my family, I find myself inspired and fearful as another hurricane approaches. I may be cynical about the hundreds of press releases I get or the startups that don’t have a business model, but I have a lot of faith in the people behind such efforts. So even as technology solves some problems, today I find myself thinking about what we as people can do.

image of the Biloxi lighthouse courtesy of


Kerrin Mitchell

I agree, it’s nice to see that people are starting to be inspired on what could be real for our communities and future. And how to be accountable for change and make it happen.

Jeff Lehman

Oh, please! The government hasn’t asked of its people? The US has enjoyed a tradition of volunteerism and private aid donation both domestically and internationally since its inception. Maybe it is time for folks to actually look around and dig into their own pockets before they ask the government to spend tax money. Do you realize that citizens of the US in 2005 donated 95.5 billion dollars of a total of 122.8 billion dollars given by the US. 79% of US foreign aid is PRIVATE. This was more than the governments of Japan, the UK, Germany and France.

Wipe off your tears and write a check. Don’t wait for somebody to ask for your participation. The good things that happen in this world are the result of people taking responsibility; good things don’t happen when people wait around for the government to do their bidding.

John A Arkansawyer

Technologists feel they have human insights because they are human. Whether those insights are special or not is a matter of opinion. Putting out the occasional human insight helps us to understand that technologist, who, oddly enough, is human. It also helps us keep focus on the end purpose of technology, which is to create value for human life. If you need a different focus than that, I respectfully suggest you go focus yourself.


Obama’s ‘…call for people to come together and take action for the greater good’.

The “greater good”? I thought that was Karl Marx’s catch phrase.

mike arronson

Why is it that technologists feel they have special insights? Please stay ON Topic Ms Higginbotham. Your wanting to help is quaint but irrelevant here.

mike arronson

Why is it that technologists feel they have special insights? Please stay ON Topic Ms Higginbotham. Your wanting to help is quaint but irrelevant here.

mike arronson

Why is it that technologists feel they have special insights? Please stay ON Topic Ms Higginbotham. Your wanting to help is quaint but irrelevant here.

David's Traveling

It is posts like these which make the blogosphere a much more powerful medium than the traditional media. We may make our livings off of technology, but we all live on the same planet and breathe the same air.

Mark Sigal

To your point, Obama’s speech was Reagan/Kennedy-esque in its clarity of vision for America, the importance of the individual and the role that government can and should play in people’s lives.

In particular, we in the techie realm should stand up and cheer his “man to the moon” promise of getting America off its dependence on middle eastern oil within 10 years.

If that’s not a clear, ambitious call to action, I don’t know what is.

Here’s a short blog post I wrote on the speech, called:

Rhetoric: Why it matters

The video of the speech is in embedded in the post. Must-see if you haven’t seen it yet, if for no other reason than the melodic nature of the narrative (your political viewpoints notwithstanding).



Ben Ortega

Nicely said.

If we make helping others our focus, it will be ever more present in our children to do the same and more when they are adults.

Adam Christensen


Very nice thoughts. Your last point is important to remember. In business we get very caught up in trying to get ahead, trying to find winners and losers. In trying to get noticed and in trying to make money.

But we should all remember that behind all businesses are real, normal people. People who might be in need, or might be in a position to help those in need. Or both. Our ability to connect on a human level is what makes us more than robots, after all. worth stepping back and remembering that.

Nice post. Thanks.


Stacey, very well said.

I grew up in a family where politics is part of our family DNA with deep roots in public office. I must say that it took 40 years, but, I found myself last night shedding a tear over the speech.

Comments are closed.