The hungry people of Africa are very far away from America, in both miles and circumstances: even after seeing graphic films of their plight on television, few of us can imagine the conditions in which most Africans live. But there are strong moral and practical reasons why Americans cannot ignore Africa.

The song is right when it says, "We are the world." The United States and other wealthy societies share the planet with hundreds of millions of people who lack the most basic necessities of a decent existence. According to the tenets of all religions and most political philosophies, it is a fundamental responsibility of the rich to help the poor. It is also in the best American secular tradition to act boldly in such an emergency, to show humanitarian concern without being unduly preoccupied with geopolitical or strategic considerations. Vast numbers of people in Africa are not merely poor, but facing starvation and death; and their circumstances invoke that responsibility with particular urgency. . . .

Finally, the U.S. experience can help Africa. In the 1930s, America faced a depression in its western and southern farm belts similar to what we see in Africa now. That economic and environmental crisis was ended by years of long-term concessional finance, work programs, large-scale soil and water conservation projects, and extension services to help farmers cope with new challenges. U.S. expertise in solving a wide range of problems is probably the best available.