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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat on KCRW.

Last night I attended a performance of Coldplay at Madison Square Gardens in New York City. Coldplay have quickly become one of America's most beloved bands, with their album holding the number one slot in sales for weeks on end.

Needless to say, it was a highly anticipated show.

Yet, inside the stadium, the mood was subdued. Lead singer Chris Martin, immediately addressed it, sending love to New Orleans from all the boroughs in New York City. The crowd breathed a heavy sign of relief and applauded wildly. Coldplay seemed to understand that in light of the current state of emergency, it would be difficult to simply relax and enjoy any music.

Since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, I've had a gnawing emptiness in the pit of my stomach. Nothing in life prepared me for so much pain and suffering in my own backyard. The best I thought I could do was donating money to an associated charity.

But sitting in Madison Square Garden, I realized how much more could be done. Many teenagers and adults alike seem to be far more interested in what their pop, sports and celebrity stars think, than even their own elected officials. These public performers have enormous latitude to influence us.

And fortunately, many understand that responsibility. Celebrities have immediately gone to devastated cities and emergency centers to offer their time and influence. It speaks volumes about where valued leadership can be found.

If you had the opportunity to watch Kayne West's impassioned plea on the NBC Special for Hurricane Relief, you understand just how frustrated some stars are.

Interestingly enough, Kayne West has been heavily criticized for his comments on that show. His feelings echo a growing sensibility among Americans, bolstered by harrowing images shown daily on television. In a nutshell, Mr. West, clearly speaking extemporaneously, suggested that the lack of speed and aid given by the government was due to the fact that the victims in New Orleans were primarily black and poor.

This week, Kayne West has the #1 record in the country, with his face on the cover of Time Magazine. Make no mistake about it. His voice will be heard.

We've just witnessed one of the biggest disasters in America's history, which is quickly morphing into the greatest awakening of apathy, ignorance and bigotry--and we need that awakening. Our Declaration of Independence dictates certain unalienable rights, including the fact that all men are created equal. If it takes a rap star, or a movie star to remind us, so be it. I've run out of heroes in the White House.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

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