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“A Movement Needs People”

MLK Day speaker Paul Farmer on making health care a human right


Click on the slide show above to hear Paul Farmer talk about why health care should be a right, not a commodity. See it on facebook.

To honor Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59), the Boston University community on Monday will examine inequality, injustice, and human rights violations in the 21st century by bringing renowned aid worker Paul Farmer to speak at the University’s annual celebration of the slain civil rights leader.

The theme of this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Day celebration is The Drum Major Instinct, based on King’s sermon of the same name. In it, he called on his congregation to find the instinct that makes us “all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade” and use it to be a leader in love, in moral excellence, and in generosity.

Farmer, a medical anthropologist and physician, is the founder of Partners in Health, a Boston-based international organization that provides health care and advocacy services to people living in poverty around the world. The organization works in Haiti, Peru, Russia, Malawi, Rwanda, Lesotho, and Boston to combat HIV infection and tuberculosis, as well as to meet food, water, and housing needs in poverty-stricken areas.

In the slide show above, Farmer talks about his first trip to Haiti, as a medical student in 1983, and the experiences that shaped his conviction that health care is a fundamental human right. He also talks about King’s idea of the drum major instinct and how it can be used to power movements for social justice and change.

The University’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Day celebration will take place on Monday, January 19, at 1 p.m. in the George Sherman Union’s Metcalf Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.


3 Comments on “A Movement Needs People”

  • Yours Truly on 01.15.2009 at 11:41 am

    It’s a great idea, but I think it’s a bit ahead of its time. At our current state (economical, social, and political) I do not think it is possible to make health care a right. Today health care lacks the efficiency to make it readily available and cost productive as a right. So many problems would need to be fixed before health care could be a universal right, and other economical problems will always gain support over the health care system, because health care is so rudimentary. People will always need health care, and the system will always adapt to that.

    For now,
    Yours Truly

  • Anonymous on 01.19.2009 at 8:50 am

    The inspirational thing about Paul Farmer is that all his successes have been in spite of the great odds presented by prevailing “practical” positions. Great ideas need leaders to make people realize that change is not something that we have to wait around for if we truly believe it to be necessary. This is why it is relevant that Farmer is speaking on MLK Day. I hope anyone interested in healthcare who is not familiar with Farmer’s work will attend his talk.
    Regards :)

  • European Resident on 01.19.2009 at 9:27 am

    Healthcare as a right

    Healthcare is already considered a right in the European Union. When I went there to work for a few years, I had immediate access to free healthcare. A small amount was subsequently taken out of my monthly payheck and this, coupled with my employer’s contributions, gave me full access to healthcare in the social security medical system. Furthermore, any tourist who suffers an accident is treated in a hospital, free of charge. If we could somehow combine the socialist and capitalist aspects of medicine in this country, we would all have access to more affordable healthcare.

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