2017 General Assembly Live Blog- Welcome and Introduction

Welcome and Introduction:


Renee and Clyde Smith, parents of DGH founder, Lanny Smith, welcome us all to Atlanta!


DGH was born out of work in the country of El Salvador for health and social justice. At that time this work started as part of an initiative called, Building Health Where the Peace Was New, and we are lucky to have many of those people involved in this movement here today.

Welcoming your presence physical and virtual to the General Assembly of Doctors for Global Health is a responsibility and privilege. I am especially lucky  to be here beside my parents, and together with companeros in la lucha working together now since before the birth of DGH. Today’s gathering is a celebration and a challenge.

We don’t have time for nostalgia, but knowing our history is essential to confronting those who are under the example of the current political climate are feeling the entitlement to promote biases of racism and fascism, Steve Biko said it: "the most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” That’s why we aren’t shy to acknowledge Liberation Medicine, the conscious, conscientious use of health to promote social justice and human dignity, as our modus within DGH.

Our General Assemblies more than 20 years ago were held in state parks—Panola Mountain, Fort Yargo—and it is good to remember these beginnings. The birth of DGH itself was in the community work “building health where the peace is new” in Morazan, El Salvador. Our collective history includes all of the history of those who struggle for social justice, in El Salvador and in any corner of the world where social injustice has been or is being fought. We have lost many we love even in the brief existence of DGH—founders Cherry and Tom Clements and Sandy Kemp—and many persons dying young who should be among us still.

Here in Georgia, we have the legacy of the Trail of Tears, the expulsion of the Cherokee and Creek Native Americans, together with the history of slavery—there is a museum plantation house near where you can read how President Thomas Jefferson estate, including all slaves not directly related to him, were sold to pay off his debts so his family could continue to live comfortably. And, our visits yesterday to the Carter Center and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change serve to remind us that it is not just history, but the NOW, the present reality repeating what was then, that we must confront and overcome. At the Carter Center we got to see what a great president he was, however we recognize that even under his watch many unfortunate events happened, including the buildup of death squads in El Salvador. Similarly the MLK Jr. Center highlighted the progress we’ve made, but we again recognize the huge amount of work that still must be done to achieve equity. Rather than building up our bias, we’re here today to recognize our bias and move forward.

We are complex, we humans, and acknowledging our biases as well as our potential is part of why we are here this weekend, together, with the challenge of our current world community in front of us. Look about you, get to know the persons who have chosen to be present today and learn with, plan with this community of promoting social justice and healing and preventing social injustice.

We are lucky to be here today. Let’s learn together, to celebrate, as Bruce Cockburn sings it, the best of who we are. Thank you for being here. Thank you for what you have done and what you will do. Thank you for your inspiration. And remember, again, as Emma Goldman said, “if I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution”—true then, true now.

Welcome to the DGH General Assembly!

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