Like so many of us in the pharmaceutical industry I have deep ties to the state of New Jersey. Although I now live in and love Chicago I have a real love for the state where my kids grew up and I spent so much of my professional life. I often tell people there is no place like it on earth. Where else can you live less than an hour away from the greatest city in the world, beautiful ocean beaches and downhill skiing? Where else can you see bear, deer and so much other wildlife while still being able to see the Manhattan skyline? It is a beautiful state with wonderful people. Like so many others my heart was broken as I watched the sand dunes give way last week and saw the horrific devastation of the state I love.
As I watched the events in New Jersey and the rest of the area I wondered what does this all mean? What is the challenge we need to take away from this tragedy? Take a look at Seth Godin’s October 31st blog entitled, “Getting Over Ourselves” and see if it spurs some potential answers. Seth talks about the opportunity to really make an impact. He talks about concentrating on what is really important and moving away from those silly things that seem to dominate our everyday worries. He talks about making a choice to either make a difference or to draw back into our small worlds. Each of us needs to think about what this really means and needs to act accordingly. I would only encourage everyone to do more, not less.
The first thing I personally take away from the disaster is the whole issue of climate change and why we talk so much about it and actually do so little. I have spent my life working in an industry where science ruled. I have seen great drugs developed to combat HIV-AIDs, heart disease, cancer and even to some extent Alzheimer’s disease. I have lived in awe of what scientists have done and how our industry has tackled diseases in every way possible. At the same time I am sickened when so many question the scientistic community and their near unanimous warnings on climate change. How many tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts and other extreme weather events do we need to see before we take action? We can’t live in a world that constantly pushes the edge of scientific knowledge and then only believe what we want to believe when the science is so crystal clear.
My second thought from last week was about healthcare. For some reason when I saw all the devastation, loss of property and even lives I wondered if that is what people felt when they were sick and didn’t have health insurance. We all know that one of the major causes of poverty in our country is the financial ruin that is caused by health problems and an inability to pay for care. Although not as visible as the ocean rushing through the coastal towns of New Jersey, the feeling of losing everything to pay for hospital visits and pharmaceuticals must be equally devastating. I am so proud to be part of an industry that was the first and perhaps the most important supporters of the Affordable Care Act. When fully implemented this nightmare of financial ruin due to health issues can be eliminated.
Tomorrow is a day when America will decide how we will make a difference and step up during the next four years. Regardless of the outcome, the beauty of elections is that everyone gets to speak out. I feel good when I see our country tackling big things. I love the way we addressed the healthcare issue even though the process was messy. And yes I felt so good last week when I saw a Republican governor and a Democratic president putting politics aside to solve really big problems. That image of Christie and Obama collaborating rather than bickering told me the state that means so much to me and our country are going to be able to recover and will come back better than ever. Together we really can do big things.