Editors Note: RESULTS is a member of the Finding Solutions to Hunger, Poverty & Inequality Alliance. For further information about this alliance, click here
Death Without Regrets
By Bob Dickerson _
New York Times November 18, 2014_
I think that few of us consider the impact of our daily activities on the final accounting anyone might render at the time of our death. Because I have had cancer for more than 15 years now, I have had a lot of time to think about this.
I actually think I got this cancer 35 years ago. It grows slowly, but it did take me to the hospital from time to time. And in September of 1999, I had my first CT scan, which gave me a confirmed diagnosis. My physician opined then – and later a second oncologist with a big reputation agreed – that I would live somewhere between 1 and 20 years.
I chose to assume what they said was true. I quit my job. I didn’t want to fall over dead at my desk.
I saw a powerful film interview with Upton Sinclair that had a huge impact on my life. He concluded that, based on his wife’s death (which followed years of pain and agony), one important thing one could do with his life was to reduce suffering.
I resolved to live my life as fully as I could. I had belonged to RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy organization mobilizing political support and effective investments to end poverty, for a little over ten years then. I had learned that 40,000 of our brothers and sisters under five on the planet were dying every day from diseases that were mostly preventable and treatable. I decided to do all that I could, under RESULTS’ tutelage, to bring that number down.
I found out that simple things – from oral rehydration salts and vitamin A capsules costing mere pennies, to measles vaccination, to inexpensive antibiotics for pneumonia – could together reduce that 40,000 number by a large percentage. What was missing was the funding and the political will to make sure those things got to the countries and kids who needed them most. It blew my mind.
That’s when I became an advocate.
Through RESULTS, I learned to use my voice to change the world. I joined with hundreds of other volunteer advocates – in the media, in our communities, and in the halls of Congress – to call for a change.
As you probably know, today that number is 17,000 a day. Hooray! However, if one of those children dying was my sister, 17,000 wouldn’t be good enough. The truth is, we ARE all one family, and to paraphrase what Ben Franklin said, we [in the human race] can either CHOOSE to hang together or we will hang separately.
Our government will make that choice next January when they come together at a pledging conference to support Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Gavi has a plan to save more than 5 million kids’ lives in the years ahead – many from things as basic as pneumonia and diarrhea. But Gavi needs the funding to do it.
We must take action. How would you like to arrive at the end of your life, and have someone ask you, “Hey, what did you do while you were on earth?” Will you be satisfied to share that you watched hours of TV and enjoyed some cool vacations?
WE HAVE A CHOICE. No one is making us do anything. We can consider the next little baby we see, and think to ourselves, “Hey, I couldn’t bear to have that child die in front of me! I know other babies, thousands of them, are dying around the world today, and many at this very moment. I am going to do something about it!” Or, we can rest on our laurels of worldly or commercial accomplishments.
For me, I don’t think I will ever be satisfied until we end injustices like that. If it were my child, I guarantee I would not let that happen, no matter what it took. So, if you have any interest on a resume at the end of your life that says, “She did her best to save lives and end hunger and suffering,” then join RESULTS. Become an advocate. And get others to do the same.
Then use your voice to tell our leaders about the chance they have, right now, to change the fates of millions of children.
Don’t be sitting in the bleachers at this historical moment. Let’s take on Gavi in a way that Congress can’t ignore. Let’s get media. Let’s get the congressional support we need. Let’s get the president to commit NOW to contributing a minimum of $1 billion over four years to Gavi – even before the pledging conference begins. Let’s give other donors a reason to stretch and to give in a way that reaches or tops the $7.5 billion global goal.
If we do that, I think we will have something serious for our resumes, even though we still have a lot more to do.