Tuesday, September 12, 2006

paul farmer at usf

yesterday, paul farmer - a professor, a physician, a member of the extraordinary partners in health, and the subject of tracy kidder's mountains beyond mountains - spoke at USF as part of the justice lecture series.

highlights (in no particular order except the last, which is my favorite):
  • all 500 seats were taken. nearly all of the aisle space surrounding the 500 seats was taken. and there was an overflow crowd, in crossroads cafe, that watched the talk via a stream.

  • before dr farmer was introduced, as he walked into the room and began his way towards the stage, the crowd erupted into applause. it was like a rock concert, except instead of cheering a guitarist we were cheering a humanitarian.

  • most big talks at universities involve an introduction by the president or a dean. yesterday, paul farmer was introduced by a senior nursing student (unfortunately, i did not catch her name). what a thrill it must have been for her to introduce a true hero and do it in front of 500+ people! she was awesome.

  • paul farmer and his partners in health colleagues' (now 4000) work in haiti and rwanda is visionary, inspiring, and against all odds. to hear him talk about it and to see pictures of the individuals and communities they serve was a truly remarkable experience. his talk (plus Q and A) lasted for an hour and a half; i could have listened and learned from him for many more hours.

  • paul farmer is an engaging and inspiring speaker. he is, as one can imagine, brilliant. he is also hysterical. he had all of us - students, san franciscans, professors, staff, jesuits - continuously laughing out loud - no small feat considering the massive poverty that farmer's patients endure.

  • paul farmer's talk was a perfect component to USF's one book, one community activities. for summer reading, the entire USF community was encouraged to read kidder's mountains beyond mountains. what a perfect selection for our troubled times.

  • it was great how paul farmer continually connected the work he and his colleagues do in haiti and rwanda to the social justice mission of the university of san francisco. i felt proud, excited, and a bit humbled to be a USF professor.

  • and finally, upon being asked by a student how to find one's occupational future, he answered (to the best of my memory): "find out what you love to do. and then do it for poor people. do it for justice."
it was a phenomenal experience.


sarah said...

nicely said, david.

another sentiment from farmer that resonated with me: listen and learn from the people you are serving.

and i agree with you--i could've listened to him all day.

Amber said...

The nursing student who introduced him was Kara Berg.

That was the most amazing lecture I've ever been to, and that was the most packed I have ever seen McLaren. It was incredible.

-Amber (from Digital Democracy)

david silver said...

thanks, amber, for adding her name - kara berg did a great job introducing dr farmer.

i was wondering if that kind of attendance was normal at mclaren. we should have speakers and events like that all the time!