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The era of mind your own business

On Tuesday, the Denny's Corporation became the nation's most generous, genuine and beloved breakfast joint in the United States for eight short hours. Denny's, the champion of middle America and the longstanding supporter of the family meal, offered the Grand Slam breakfast free to every customer from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. According to the Associated Press, their campaign was an attempt to "reacquaint customers with the brand" that they can afford, even in these tough economic times.

Eager eaters across the country began forming a line at the door the minute restaurants opened, but it's certainly too soon to tell if Denny's met its actual objective — to bolster its image as an affordable and upstanding establishment. Perhaps the massive number of people who came out for a free meal will remember the act of kindness Denny's showed them the next time their struggling to decide where to get lunch.

Regardless of the outcome, it's clear the corporation has made an effort at taking responsibility for itself. No one will be criticizing Denny's for looking to the government for a bailout and blowing it on a helicopter or a free breakfast scheme.

Rarely as it might be exhibited in today's social climate, I hold the opinion that Denny's isn't the only display of fiscal, civic and personal responsibility. There are undoubtedly caring people and businesses with pure intentions. Maybe it is simply that we are too hung up on the outliers to recognize that the majority of our society is comprised of regular, dependable do-gooders.

The Star Ledger reported that Oprah Winfrey recently made a $1.5 million donation to Newark schools and other institutions. And right in our own backyard, people are taking initiative and responsibility to improve the community. New Brunswick resident James L. Pharr has filed a small claims complaint to improve living conditions in the city and prevent the nuisance of unnecessary taxi horns. He has sued for $1 in hopes that the city will enforce "a city ordinance that prohibits horn blowing except in times of danger," according to The Home News Tribune.

Despite people that are doing the right thing for themselves, their families and their neighborhoods every day, we remain fixated on other people's problems. On Jan. 6, a California woman, Nadya Suleman, gave birth to octuplets. Being only the second live delivery of octuplets in the United States, the births brought massive attention to the family. But there have been ethical concerns with the pregnancy following the discovery that Ms. Suleman, a single, unemployed woman, also had six children at home ranging between seven and two years of age. According to the Associated Press, all 14 children were the result of in vitro fertilization and an unnamed sperm donor.

CBS News has reported over the past week that the Suleman family had filed for bankruptcy and lost a home almost two years ago and that all 14 children, Suleman and her divorced parents will be living in a three-bedroom home. It has also been revealed that Suleman hired an agent and is looking for $2 million in media deals to speak with Oprah Winfrey and other reporters. Whatever her intentions — whether she is driven by a love of being a mom or desire for attention — Suleman's story has put her in a position to be confronted by every critic under the sun.

The stressful and chaotic lifestyle of the Gosselins on "Jon & Kate Plus 8" does anything but glamorize parenting. Even with the attention, gifts and other forms of support, the family faces the obvious financial burden associated with raising children. Suleman, having made the commitment to 14 children, must understand the consequences of her actions. Yet when did it become the responsibility of the entire nation to chastise?

As made apparent through the warring words and heated exchanges between Simon Cowell and Kara DioGuardi on the eighth season of "American Idol," it is tough to be a judge. If opinions can differ so significantly on who will generate the greatest attention for the highest rated show on television, I wonder how the majority of the nation's media outlets can come to agreement when they are judging matters of character and intention.

President Barack Obama has called for a "new era of responsibility — recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves." Despite the simplicity of this request, in recent days we have elevated it to the status of a challenge rather than a reminder. In our nation of tabloids and television talk shows, we have become so comfortable attacking other people's misguided decisions and inadequacies it seems as if we may have forgotten how to mind our own business and focus on doing right by ourselves. Recognizing and taking charge of our own responsibilities is a possible and necessary next step, but if we continue to focus our energy on disparagement of others' mistakes, it may be twice as difficult to achieve.

Larissa Klein is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. Her column, "Definition of Insanity," runs on alternate Thursdays. She welcomes feedback at [email protected]

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