Opening Remarks by MacArthur Vice President Elspeth Revere at the MacArthur Fellows Science Lecture Featuring U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin
November 9, 2010 | Speech | MacArthur Fellows, Digital Media & Learning

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Mary. And thanks to the library and to the Chicago Public Library Foundation for hosting tonight’s event.

It is a pleasure to be here at Harold Washington Library – one of my favorite places in Chicago. It is both an architecturally grand symbol of learning and a practical place to find books, conduct research, and attend lectures like this one.

It is also a place where Chicagoans come together from all parts of the city. You may have noted the MacArthur-supported YouMedia space as you walked into the building, a place for teens to learn together after school, assisted by skilled librarians and using digital technology.

This is the latest incarnation of MacArthur’s interests in libraries. A very early one was support for a collection of high quality videos – the MacArthur video classics – prepared for libraries around the country when educational videos were too expensive for individuals to buy – it is hard to remember back that far.

Later, libraries were the first concern of our work on intellectual property and the public domain in the digital age. When we at MacArthur think about the future of education, media and technology, we always come back to libraries.

This lecture series was conceived as part of Science Chicago, the world’s largest science celebration — which MacArthur helped develop and plan.

Our interest in sponsoring that program came from our desire to recognize the important role that Chicagoans and their institutions have played, and continue to play, in scientific advancement.

It was our hope that some of the 140 institutions participating in Science Chicago would continue their public programs after the year-long festival ended, and this lecture is one example that this is taking place.

But some of you may not be here because of your deep interest in science.

Some of you may be here because we are all interested in our health.

Today we get to meet and hear from Dr. Regina Benjamin, the United States Surgeon General, and someone who is concerned about the health of all of us.

Dr. Benjamin is the 18th Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service. As America’s doctor, she provides the public with the best scientific information available on how to improve our health and the health of the nation.

Dr. Benjamin also oversees the operational command of 6,500 uniformed health officers who serve in locations around the world to promote, protect, and advance the health of Americans.

Dr. Benjamin became Surgeon General in 2009.

The year before her appointment, in 2008, she received another honor when she was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship in recognition for the creativity and impact of her work. This is how the Foundation described her at the time of the award:

“Regina Benjamin is a rural family physician forging an inspiring model of compassionate and effective medical care in one of the most underserved regions of the United States. In 1990, she founded the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic to serve a Gulf Coast fishing community of in a rural village of approximately 2,500 residents in Alabama, a village devastated twice in the past decade by Hurricanes Georges, in 1998, and Katrina, in 2005.

“Despite scarce resources, Benjamin painstakingly rebuilt her clinic after each disaster and set up networks to maintain contact with patients scattered across multiple evacuation sites. She established a family practice that allows her to treat all incoming patients, many of whom were uninsured. Benjamin is skilled, as well, in translating research on preventive health measures into accessible, community-based interventions to decrease the disease burdens of her diverse patient base, which included immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. With a deep, firsthand knowledge of the pressing needs and health disparities afflicting rural, high-poverty communities, Benjamin is ensuring that the most vulnerable among us have access to high-quality care.”

Who could ask for a better-prepared Surgeon General?

Please welcome the 18th Surgeon General of the U.S., Dr. Regina Benjamin.

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