Stories from History About Being Better Together
Frederick Douglass in the 1850’s: united in the goals of inclusivity and appreciation for individuality: Embodied in the American Spirit is the aspiration to be inclusive and appreciation for individuality. The nation has made tragic errors in the past when it has failed to insist on these values – errors that remind us graphically of the importance of making inclusivity and appreciation central to the American Spirit going forward. Frederick Douglass spoke in 1852, to President Millard Fillmore and a large gathering to celebrate the Fourth of July. He contrasted the admirable liberties afforded most inhabitants of the United States and the complete lack of liberty, the enslavement, suffered by 3 million fellow inhabitants. “The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me,” said Douglass, adding:
You declare, before the world, and are understood by the world to declare, that you “hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country. Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” (July 5, 1852).
Though Douglass had escaped from slavery when he was 20, he devoted himself to advocacy on behalf of those who remained enslaved. He repeatedly extolled the values of the U.S. Constitution and urged that its rights extend to all. The Civil War ended slavery a little over a decade after that speech, and Douglass rose to become a U.S. Marshal and a diplomat who represented U.S. interests abroad. Still he continued to point out the work that remained to be done to create opportunity for all. A century and a half later, much work remains to be done to make this an inclusive nation that respects the individuality of each inhabitant, and that is what we unite in our determination to achieve.
The Jimmy Fund in the 1940s — innovation, positivity, and better together: In the late 1940’s a child with cancer rarely survived. Doctors were hopeful though that research would increase the number of cures. Still, these optimistic doctors were uncertain how to persuade the public to donate to cancer research when the public thought of cancer as incurable. A Boston physician, Dr. Sidney Farber, refused to give up and had the idea of a giving a human face – one of his pediatric cancer patients – to the calls for donations. The first radio broadcast of twelve-year-old “Jimmy,” renamed to preserve his privacy, enthusing from his hospital bed about his favorite baseball team and players, as those very players walked into his hospital room, resulted in 25 times the anticipated contributions. Donors joined together and bought Jimmy a television so that he could watch his team play and ultimately gave millions of dollars to cancer research. The Jimmy Fund for cancer research and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute were born. Dana-Farber is now a pre-eminent center for cancer research, and its physicians have helped to develop a variety of cancer therapies.
In 1998 – 50 years after the initial radio broadcasts – Jimmy, whose real name was Einar Gustafson, surprised the Dana-Farber staff who thought he had surely died of cancer, by returning, complete with his shoe box of baseball cards and other souvenirs from his hospital stay. Exemplifying his doctor’s “can do” attitude, Mr. Gustafson became honorary chairman of the Jimmy Fund, recording announcements for radio and television and visiting with cancer patients.