Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

On this Fathers Day, I think back on my own father. Dad to me, Gray to his family, The Gray Fox to many. He would be 98 years old today if he had lived beyond his 81st birthday. I still miss him.

He was a lifelong Socialist and Pacifist, and (I now know) an Aspergerian. I have all of that DNA.

I feel that I have found a new father figure in Don Berwick, even though we are the same age. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, a time of prosperity and social awareness. Flower Power, feminism, and the Civil Rights movement. I was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and I was a Conscientious Objector (and have the draft card to prove it).

Somehow, all of that went away. Many candidates have won my heart over the past few years because they have offered a vision that reflects the hopes I had for this world so many years ago. Nine years ago Deval Patrick came upon the scene and won my allegiance. But there have been others. Bob Reich. Howard Dean. Many more local candidates (and office-holders).

Yesterday, Don Berwick delivered a thrilling Convention Speech. I stood only 20 yards away from the podium and watched the sincerity in his face. There were times when I couldn’t applaud because I was overcome with emotion. I have heard the story of Isiah more than once before, but that didn’t stop the tears.

“He had two diseases,” Berwick said. “One was leukemia, which we cured. The other, he died from. Its name is injustice, it is inequality, it is poverty and, yes, it is racism.”

Don’s agenda to end these things is enough to enlist me in his campaign. But there is much more. I will be working hard for Don between now and November.


    • Patrice woeppel on June 16, 2014 at 2:06 PM
    • Reply

    Yes, Don Berwick’s speech was incredible, inspiring – and so up-front on the issues that face us, issues that so often are glossed over by other candidates.
    Thank you, Don for all that you stand for, for speaking up and speaking out, for telling it like it is.
    We are with you.

  1. Dr. Berwick was introduced at the Convention by State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz.

    Don Berwick
    Convention Speech – “All Means All”
    June 14, 2014
    Worcester, MA

    Thank you Sonia. You are one amazing leader. And thank you Democrats. It’s an honor to stand here today.

    I want to start with a story. It’s about a young man – a patient of mine – I’ll call him Isaiah. I think of him often.

    I met Isaiah when he was 15 years old… He was a kid from Roxbury. He was in Room 4, writhing in pain. As it turned out, he had leukemia. Leukemia is often fatal in a Black teen, but not that time. We pulled out all the stops. We walked a four-year tightrope – he had a bone marrow transplant – and modern medicine cured Isaiah. His leukemia never came back.

    But there’s more. Isaiah smoked his first pot at age 5. He had his first gun at age 10 – stole a car at age 12. The view from his house was vacant lots and drug dealers on the corner. He was in and out of trouble his whole life – in and out of addiction, even while we were treating his cancer. Once, when he was 17, Isaiah said to me, “Dr. Berwick, I think that my leukemia is a blessing, because when I’m in the hospital, at least I can’t be on the streets.”

    And then one dark night, 15 years after his leukemia was cured, Isaiah died – on the streets – in despair. Overtaken by hopelessness.

    Isaiah had two lethal diseases. We cured one: leukemia. The other killed him. Its name is injustice – inequality, poverty, and, yes, racism.

    I see his face every day. And every day I ask myself the same question: Today, would Isaiah die again, or live?

    I want to be your Governor so that today Isaiah would live.

    Look…. When my organization said we could save tens of thousands of lives by making health care safer, people said it was impossible. But, we mobilized nearly every hospital in America, and we did it.

    Our President asked me to lead the fight to make health care in America at last a human right.

    In 30 years of executive leadership, I have never shied away from bold goals.

    Massachusetts, we can do what we decide to do. We’re the first state to make health care a human right. We’re the first state to say you can marry the person you love. We’re leading the nation in clean energy.

    But, we are not done.

    We have a pledge yet to keep – the pledge we made again this morning. We said, “…with liberty and justice for all.” “All” means “all.” “All” includes Isaiah.

    It is not liberty for all when one among us sleeps hungry, as 3000 Massachusetts kids will tonight; when 4000 families are homeless. It is not liberty for all when one among us works 40 or 50 hours a week and can’t make ends meet for her family. It is not justice for all when a person struggling with addiction or mental illness is slammed into a prison and forgotten.

    And it is neither liberty nor justice when we surrender to the myth that, if some are to win, others must lose. That in a Commonwealth that thrives, Isaiah must die.

    No! Wrong! When injustice wins, no one wins.

    For a compassionate Commonwealth, the answers are clear. Are you hungry? Food. Are you lost? Take my hand. Are you sick? Care. Are you idle? Work. Union work.

    The problem is lies – lies that endanger our nation. It is a lie that those with great wealth have the right to control our future. It is a lie that corporations are people. They aren’t. It is a lie that the poor make themselves poor; that the sick make themselves sick.

    I am sick and tired of those lies, Massachusetts. Let’s point this nation toward truth.

    No more lies. I say: “liberty and justice for all.” I cannot wait to ask Charlie Baker and his Republican party to tell us what syllable of the word, “all,” they do not understand.

    I am not scared of Charlie Baker, and neither should you be. He lost once before, and, make no mistake, on November 4th, we will defeat him again.

    Only one thing scares me: timidity – timidity that stays silent in the face of those lies. Democrats, it is your time. Be brave. This is the time for bold goals, progressive goals, without hesitation or apology, grounded in our values, rooted in our hearts. This is what we do. Remember, this is the party of Ted Kennedy, Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey, and the best governor in America: Deval Patrick. This is the state where America began.

    Do not be afraid. We will prevail because we will reach for what we pledge: liberty and justice for all.

    “All” means that we will end hunger, and homelessness, and poverty in Massachusetts. 3000 hungry children? No! Zero!
    “All” means that every single worker has a solid job, a living wage, and a fair share of the American dream.
    “All” means handing my grandchildren a planet free from the grip of fossil fuels.
    “All” means unshackling our teachers and our children, handcuffed by standardized tests. “All” means an end to the epidemic of addiction, not by growing prisons, but by funding treatment.
    And “All” means that we in Massachusetts will take the step that status quo politicians have not had the guts to take: Medicare for All… Single Payer.

    Isaiah is not gone. He is watching. His eyes are the eyes of the hungry child, the homeless family, the frightened undocumented worker, the eyes of the woman who wants equal pay, of the man in prison who wants a road back home. He is watching, and he is asking, “Who will help?”

    We will. I say to him, Isaiah, hear our pledge. Hear our promise. As your Governor, I swear to you we will keep that promise. Hear my pledge: All means All. One nation. Indivisible. Liberty. Justice. For All, Isaiah. For All.

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