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Diane Sawyer examines poverty in Appalachia


Friday's “20/20” finds Diane Sawyer in starkly different environs than the cheerily lighted Times Square studio she occupies each morning as co-host of “Good Morning America.”

In her latest ABC prime-time special, which examines poverty in Appalachia, Sawyer is scrubbed free of the glamour of morning television. Donning blue jeans, her normally coiffed hair pulled back in a ponytail, the anchor visits the deepest recesses of the mountainous region: the hillside trailer homes, the weathered front porches, the dank tunnels of a coal mine.

For more of the story, read here.

(Photo courtesy ABC)

Comments () | Archives (56)

It was very touching seeing the little girl in such poverty.
I thought you might was to google DAR schools in Appalachia. Dar has not forgotten them.
Sincerely, Barbara Feick, Temescal Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution (California)

I was flabbergasted by the trailer on the upcoming ABC Diane Sawyer program on poverty in Appalachia. I see families living in houses, with kitchens, with a refrigerator, and mattresses to sleep in, and a mother riding away in a car. POVERTY////

I watched the trailer of Diane Sawyers program on poverty in Appalachia. I see families living in houses, with kitchens, inside of which is a refrigerator. I see children sleeping on mattresses. I see a mother drive away in a car. POVERTY???? It is as if Ms. Sawyer is flaunting to the world the wealth of America: see, even our most poor children have several changes of clothing, eat every day--usually at least two times a day. Even the baby owns a sippy cup with soda, obviously purchased by parents with spare change to do so. They wear coats and shoes in the winter, and they own hair brushes. I can see that some ignorant and isolated American presenting this as "poverty". But Diane Sawyer is supposedly a world traveler, who has been to India, China, Africa, Mexico, where true poverty exists. My opinion of Ms. Sawyer went down the drain.

I wonder why Diane considered these families as poor. The children have several changes of clothing, have coats and shoes on in the winter, and have regular meals at least most days. Diane is not an ignorant, isolated American, who sees America as the center of the world. She has seen poverty in India, the Phillipines, in Africa, and in Latin America. The slum dweller in India would consider those appalachian children rich, and would change circumstances with them any day of week.

I agree that in comparison with the rest of the world, America really do not have "poor" folks.
For example: In China, we have families that only have one pair of pants in the family. Usually the father wears the pants when he has to go to work or do business. The rest of the family just have to make do---and they are not rich enough to wear underwear. The American tourists who came back from their deluxe 5-stars Hotel trips came back and reported there are no more hungry folks in China . Ehhhhhhhh?
Here is shown a family fully clothed ! Eating. Going to school, with modern conveniences, and we are suppose to tear up??????

I wonder how the show could have taken so long to produce and yet it is centered in one small area? Dianne would have had a better look at poverty, had she visited the shut down coal mine areas of West Virginia, where the people are really in trouble and have been for years. I really was appaled by the comments above that show such arrogance for people on a lower social scale than the writers. They seem to forget we are all Americans and should be ashamed of what greed has done to our thinking.

My son Jason is 30 years old and has had Mountain Dew mouth. He has several physical and mental disabilities and lives on his own. This makes it very diffidult to control what he is drinking. For the majority of his life, he has been drinking Mountain Dew. Over the years, his teeth have completely rotted out. Because he is on medical assistance, there is only one dentist in Duluth (that I know of) who takes medical assistance patients. It took many years to get in to see that dentist. During those years, he lost all of his upper teeth and most of his lower teeth, also. I also have a friend whose husband lost all of his teeth to Mountain Dew mouth. This is a huge problem in America.


I am saddened that people think there is no poverty in Appalachia by what they saw. Having lived in Appalachia region as a child and now going to visit as an adult, I do see poverty still, may not be what others see in foreign countries, but still poverty. Many of the clothes the children wear are donated from churches, etc . outside of the area where I grew up. Many parents do not have jobs, cannot afford good cars, or even have transportation. I see people asking for rides to town from neighbors who have a car. Do not have school supplies and need help with this. Many live in homes not well heated, do not see a doctor regularly due to shortage of doctors in the area. I know of several mission organizations who donate supplies and clothing year round to help clothe the children. There is poverty all around in every state in US. Have we become so judgmental that we cannot see poverty and suffering.

Does anyone know of a donation or address where I could send canned goods for these people or clothing that I don't wear anymore? This 20/20 episode made me feel completely bad for these people who are just like me and meanwhile, America is trying to save the poor countries instead of our own country :(

excuse me, but would having two changes of clothes and shoes be how you should live your life. as we all clearly have computers, it seems to me this is not something most of us have experienced and we have no idea, as far luckier citizens, what these people are dealing with. shame on any of us sitting in our houses with one or more rooms per person and closets and refirdgerators full, insulting those people and calling them not "poor". you can fault the parents all you like, but there is not a damn thing any of those children have done to deserve that.

I have to agree with the fact that our country is in serious trouble, as are it's people.
A change of cloths here and there hardley suggests that these folks do not live in poverty. This program depicts just a small area that the government has failed to help, but realize that there are many others.And for those who think that is not pverty, count your blessings because the government might just forget about you as they did those in the mountains.

Should anyone read this beyond this point.. My FAMILY is willing to extend any sort of help to the children of this area, if any next staps can be taken, we would love to know.

Thank you, Helen, for such kind remarks about this article. I also felt the disgusting comments listed have been extremely cold and judgmental. I saw poverty and desperation at its fullest, and doubt if many of the comment authors would choose to live in such "not so poor" areas. It is odd that most people who sit with full bellies of food of choices, fancy homes, clothing from the malls, with bills paid, are usually the first ones to judge against these people. My mother always said "Walk a mile in their shoes before you say anything against them" and this article more than anything proves this. I am especially concerned with the 12-year old girl who is attempting to help her mother out of her drug condition, and they young boy so desperately wishing to rise above his upbringings. Maybe instead of being so mean-spirited and hateful, offering a job or assistance would be better appreciated.

You know, you people who have commented on here that didn't believe that
this was not really a poverty stricken area obviously don't have a clue.Take
care of those in your own back yard first, forget about china, have'nt they
done enough for our economy? Where's your loyalty to the U.S., you
liberal puke.

Please let us know about Erica. I wrote you but must have lost it...it went blank...you have my e-mail I would like to ask if we could help her by letting her live with us and go to our public school.

please let us know if there is any hope for her to get out and get an education...thanks, kate

There are so many of us that agree we need to take care of us first. It’s obvious that when Bobby Kennedy where there, he saw a need. A need that has not changed. Why aren’t the school counselors guiding these children to a better life. If they in fact HAVE to go to school why don’t they have better programs to help these people? What happened to the school lunch program and the elimination of soft drinks? We have that program in most of Wi.
How come it is, the elected officials used to see what we have always seen yet they still send our money elsewhere?
I donate what I can to numerous organizations in my local community, but how can our government keep doing this? Over 700 billion dollars for programs that should never enter into a “Stimulus” package. What the hell is going on? Obama needs to realize there are more needy, poor people than only in the inner cities.
After reading many of the other e mails, I see that there are still a lot of morons that think everything here in the U.S. is a-okay and they are still gladly sending their money overseas to third world countries (that probably is stolen by their gov’t.). Personnaly I give only to local or American charities and go on line to check out the available financial distributions.
It is easy to say, hey they have a car, or can buy smokes or beer, but come on, can the kids have a break here? It’s not their fault, what if it was your family? It could soon be.
Buy American.
Give American.
Help Americans first, no one else will.

as a former floyd county native. i grew up there and its no different there than anywhere else. i myself, worked with youth through the hilliard optimist club, and baseball assocation for over 25 years. not only did i give my time and efforts but, i contributed alot of money to the betterment of the community.
it seems the more you give the more they expect. except in alot of cases, it really is painful to watch someone try and try and try and then finally just give up. for instance the football player when faced with alot of challenges, he just threw in the towell. we know that he knew the score as far as life is concerned. you have to get up and go on when you get kicked down.
there are lots he could have done besides dig coal by the side of the road. he could have taken the option of serving in the military, student loans, pel grants just bundles and bundles of options he could have taken. but his choice was to quit. well, guess who really feels sorry for him. of course the only one that does is himself. he will live in self pity until he picks himself up and move on. i'm sorry but it really makes me angry. but i guess its no wonder. i sorta did the same thing and one day i woke up and got a life.
i too attended school in floyd conty kentucky. moved to ohio at the beginning of my sohpmore year and graduated from dublin high shcool. i actually believed that college was for only the rich and i was supposed to get a job at general motors or westinghouse or some other local plant near columbus.
well, about that time the factories were all moving out of the country . i got into the local union for heavy equipment operaters. there i got a 4 year apprenticeship and from that, i had pretty good luck. i had my ups and downs and lived the american dream. now i have a pretty decent retirement and i can live pretty confortable . that in itself took over 35 years of service. but i am there now. i really thank god i was intelligent enough to have the forsight to take care of myself. its like they sit around and wait on somebody to give them a handout.
no let me enter my cousins just "down the holler " from me. they were alot more poorer, the dad was a very heavy drinker. never had money for groceries a refrigerator, stove , you know, just no money for all those luxuries. no matter didnt' have any food to fill them anyway. i think you get the picture. but a little stretch of the imagination. they always had food.
a family of 5 kids and a very loving mother. thier dad was a pretty good provider but his views were alot like mine. get a high school diploma and get a job. well they had a dream to and 4 of them graduated from college. two were school teachers and one of them died at the age of 46 and was a county school administrator . one was a nurse, one was an equipment dealer owner and one retired from the mines , i think he got a disability from black lung.
in essence, i believe my message would be if there is a will there is a way. what we need to do is break the pattern of feeling sorry for myself and understand that I need to pick me up and I need to get an education and I need to learn to take care of me. turn around and give back to mom and dad who gave you everything they had to raise you and are so proud of you . and yet, they don't even know anything else outside that holler. litterally they don't.
i have my dads place yet down there so i rented it out . just to take care of it. if not, the dope dealers woudl have burned it down in a montht. so i elected to help him out literally.gave him the house and 200 acres he could farm if he would like to . i only charged him $150.00 a month rent and it had free gas. so the only bill he had outide of rent was the electric bill .now i have done my part to help out. the only thing i wanted in return was to have the place taken care of .
they still lived the same lifestyle and cried POOR. its simply a matter of the peoples self esteem. i can tell you about that . i have been laughed at, spit at, and even had rocks thrown at me. however, i prevailed. i'm not by any means riich or even close to it but, i have provided my future's finances.
i suppose i should consider myself lucky in alot of ways. i really,honestly lived my dream. i provided my family confortably and made my retirement confortable too. most of all, i chose my profession the thing i always absolutly loved to do and , i have no regrets.
so i suppose my feeling is very simple we have to get these people to understand this is america and you can have and live the american dream the same as anybody else. but the first thing you have to learn is don't feel sorry for yourself is number one and the next issue is people are people wherever you go and not any better or worse than yourself. you can do anything you want to. becuse you were raised in a "holler" is no excuse . you have to get off your duff and work.
this brings me to one of the piople in your interview. the man who owned the coal company made a very big statement he built a very beautiful house for all to see and making the statement that this is where he lives with the land and people he loves and he would probably tell you he is proud to be part of thier lives. to be honest, looks like he is doing ok to me.
the biggest issue is these people are like athletes. sorta like the football player. you have to have the confidence and fortitude to win. if you have the attitude you can't win, you already lost. i would love to get the chance to talk to him for on hour. it all comes down to choices you can pick yourself up go on or you can wallow in your own tears. because until you care for your well being,how do you expect anybody else to care. an old addage from my father. NOBODY WILL TAKE BETTER CARE OF YOU THAN YOU.

No doubt people in the Appalachia and those who come from there feel they are poor. I am not denying that most people in the USA live in better condition. If I look hard enough, there is always someone else living better than me. The point is that I also have to be responsible for my own behavior that kept me in the "poverty condition" I find myself-----can I cut off drugs, alcohol, soda, work for lower than minimum wage to add to the welfare money I am receiving? As a child, can she study harder, read more, study more, so as to get the rare scholarship offered to high achieving students every university has available? There is no shame in wearing second hand clothing as long as they are kept clean and mended----you can still work or go to school in old clothes. Outsiders should help, but they also need to do their parts. There are so many people in the world much much worse, hungry, illiterate with no chance of schooling.

Many parents do not have jobs, cannot afford good cars, or even have transportation. I see people asking for rides to town from neighbors who have a car. Do not have school supplies and need help with this. Many live in homes not well heated, do not see a doctor regularly due to shortage of doctors in the area.

I came from a place where we do not have cars, good or bad. We walk. None of my neighbors have cars. We do not need of school supplies because we could not afford tuition, and we do not have public schools. Well heated homes are non existent--who has money to heat a home???? My family could not afford a refrigerator until I was 16 years old. We have doctors around, but none of us could afford to consult them, even when my brother broke his leg. My uncle walks every morning for 7 miles one way to work 12 hours in the factory, feeling lucky that he could. Four families, a total of 17 people live in a two room apartment---no kitchen or running water or bathroom.

If you watched the show, the Indian doctor commented that the people in Appalachia were poorer then the part of India he came from. While he might have been from a place other then the slums, it is eye-opening to have this type of opinion. I've been to other countries and have traveled well beyond the tourist attractions. From my experiences, the people of Appalachia as well as other Americans living in similar circumstances are as poor as some of the poorest in third world countries. While they may not be in the same circumstances as say a person living in Somalia, it is appalling to see fellow Americans live in these conditions. Furthermore, the lack of investments in these types of communities is nothing less than criminal. Like other countries where there are concerted efforts to keep the people uneducated so as to better control them, the lack of resources in our poorest communities are attempts to keep the poor down and under control of the elites.

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