Town Meeting April 18, 2001
Union Temple Baptist Church, Washington, D. C.


At an extraordinary town meeting held April 18 at Union Temple Baptist Church, sponsored by the Coalition to Save D.C. General, it became obvious that the drive to save the hospital has been transformed into a full-fledged movement, based in tradition of the civil rights movement of Dr. Martin Luther King, and rooted in the principle of the General Welfare clause of the U.S. Constitution. Some 400 citizens attended the meeting, from D.C. as well as from Virginia, Maryland, N.J. and elsewhere. Special guest speakers included former Clinton Administration Cabinet member Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders; Rev. James Bevel, director of Direct Action for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,; Dr. Alim Muhammad, National spokesman for the Nation of Islam; Dr. Simmon Wilcox, Past President of the Medical Staff of Aliquippa Community Hospital of Beaver County, who led the successful fight to kick DCHC out of Aliquippa, Pa. hospital, using the LaRouche method against the advice of others who tried to stop him from doing that; Rev. Richard Boone, who created the 1963 Birmingham Children's March; and the two D.C. City Councilmen who led the battle against the control board in a city that's been under receivership for 6 years. Also speaking was Dennis Speed, Northeast coordinator of the Schiller Institute; Dr. Michal Ann Young, President of the Medical/Dental Staff, D.C. General Hospital; and Lynne Speed from the Schiller Institute and Coalition to Save D.C. General Hospital. The meeting was held in the landmark church of Rev. Willie Wilson, the person who had launched the political career of the current Mayor, Anthony Williams, and the former Mayor, Marion Barry, in his run for city council in 1992.

The character of the gathering and response of people suggested that the meeting was reminiscent of the the early stages of the civil rights movement, and certainly, as far as Washington, D.C. is concerned, it is the most significant political meeting in that city since the time of the Poor People's campaign in 1968, in that citizens were challenged to act on behalf of the General Welfare, as part of a much larger fight.

With major media on hand, including 4 television stations, the meeting powerfully conveyed the message of the petition being circulated by the FDR-PAC, the political action committee founded by associates of Lyndon H. LaRouche, which says: "It is time to draw the line: Saving D.C. General Hospital is a matter of international importance." Opening the weekly meeting -- the 11th such mass town meeting -- moderator Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammed, a founder of the Coalition to Save D.C. General, told the crowd, that we can "smell the elements of victory in the air." He had good reason to say that. For, as a result of the FDR-PAC/Coalition efforts, the duly elected Washington, D.C. City Council had voted unanimously, 13-0, on Thursday, April 12, to fund D.C. General Hospital and make it the center of the D.C. health-care system in the impoverished, largely black Southeast section of Washington, defying the scheme put together by Mayor Anthony Williams and the "D.C. Control Board", which would have closed down the hospital by March of this year, and put health care into the hands of DCHC, "Doctors Community Healthcare Corporation." Dr. Alim recounted how the coalition meetings had triggered a citizens' quest for truth that uncovered, with the work of the FDR-PAC, that in reality DCHC is involved in crimes -- organized crimes --to loot and strip bare of assets and cash flow, the hospitals it takes over.

With the kind of representation on the podium today, said Dr. Alim, this fight for D.C. general had turned into a "movement."

The character of the fight was captured by former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, who said she had been invited to attend and that since she had arrived in Washington, the media kept saying to her that the fight was over, why was she there, that it was a "done deal." She replied that she was a doctor and "I don't believe in giving up until the last heartbeat. The thing you must not do is to give up. The only time you need to be afraid to fail is the last time you are going to try." She stressed that it's not just about this hospital; you are talking about public health care here and all around the nation. Indicating the heat of the battle, and the pace of the fight, two members of the D.C. City Council, Kevin Chavous and Phil Mendelson, joined the podium group to thank the citizens for their incredible perseverance and determination, and to announce that they will continue the fight on behalf of the people who supported them. Chavous said that he is proud of his colleagues that make up the 13-member City Council, because the vote to fund D.C. General with $21.5 million in operating expenses was unanimous, 13-0, and rarely, if ever, have they previously had a 13-0 vote on any issue. He said that Mayor Williams announced he will veto that vote, but Chavous predicted that not only will the Councilmembers deliver 9 votes to override the veto, but the vote will be 13-0 once again. He told the citizens to keep on fighting, keep on growing, keep on hoping, because, after the City Council, overrides the veto, the D.C. General budget will go back to the Control Board and then to Congress. Chavous said that "sometimes when your back is against the wall," there is nowhere to go but forward! Backing up what Chavous announced, Dr. Alim explained forcefully that, now, because of the crazy laws that govern the District of Columbia and make the Congress the seat of ultimate decisions about the District, the issue of D.C. General has become the domain of every citizen of the United States who can, and must lobby every member of the U.S. Congress to vote for saving D.C. General.

Recalling the several months of work by the Coalition, Dr. Alim said that "this is a movement of love," beginning with the love of God. He said that the only way we can serve God is to serve our fellow man, especially the poor, and the least of our brethren. Dr. Alim said that "D.C. General is sacred ground, it is consecrated for the poor," reminding the citizens that as Jesus said that the "poor will always be among us," the doors must always be opened to those poor, "for the love of humanity." He said that the citizens must turn out in "platoons, squads, and brigades" to demonstrate outside the Mayor's office on Thursday, and march with the coalition to Capitol Hill to win this fight. The next speaker was Dennis Speed, who brought the spirit of Mr. LaRouche into the meeting. Citing a major article by LaRouche called, "The Philosophy of Victory: Can We Change the Laws of the Universe," Speed said this was the whole point of the meeting -- can we [including the people in this room] change the laws of the universe? He centered his remarks around a strategic briefing on the needless crises being created by the arrogant and stupid Washington elites: the economic and financial collapse, the bloodbath in the Middle East, and the looming strategic crisis in China. He asked what kind of people have we become when we cannot understand that to apologize for the death of a pilot defending his nation is a human response, a human gesture, especially when you realize that we "accidently" killed several people in the bombing of the Chinese Embassy during the war against Serbia. That is in the mind of the Chinese people and that was in the mind of the Chinese pilot. Speed stressed that LaRouche's article is sub-titled, "Can We Change the Universe?", which is exactly what the fight for D.C. General is about. To make those changes because human beings have a purpose -- to create a government of the people, by the people and for the people. He asked, how can elected officials represent the "will of the people" who elected them, if the people are so indifferent that they have no "will"? That is what has to change. Speed took the example of Robert Henderson, a Howard University medical student who had recently committed suicide. He was the 3rd person to die at Howard in the last three weeks; 2 of the 3 had committed suicide. Speed said: you would have thought that a person who is a medical student has a sense of purpose, an idea of mission. So what happened to this person's sense of mission? Would he not, had he been integrated into this fight, decide that D.C. General could not close, and would this not have given him a sense of mission and would he then be alive today? The audience expressed their assent to this and concurred that the D.C. General fight is not only about saving lives in an emergency room, but we may be saving lives in universities and elsewhere in ways that are not obvious by giving people hope and a sense of mission.

Back to the strategic question, and U.S. foreign and domestic policy, Dennis said it is not required that the U.S. merely be feared, or only respected. It could also be loved. He then went into the question of the general welfare. If you want to understand what's wrong with us as a people. you can look at Cincinnati; you can look at the killing of Amiadou Diallo. But it's not just racism. For example if you look at the vote in Mississippi to maintain the Confederate flag as the official state flag, that's not purely about racism. The preamble to the Constitution of the Confederate states of America omits the general welfare clause, and so what you are seeing in Mississippi is a disengagement from the concept of the general welfare and that's what's characterized our decisions in foreign and domestic policy. The fight for D.C. General is the fight for that idea, not in D.C., not in the United States, but all over the world. And, in a rousing and inspirational speech, Rev. James Bevel, formerly director of direct action for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., appealed to the population not to give up the fight for principle, but to become true citizens of the nation. Where are the citizens? the Rev. Bevel asked. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence give Americans, including African-Americans, the right, and obligation, to take responsibility for their government, as equals. The Declaration could have said, ``All white men are created equal.'' But it didn't! It said, ``All men,'' meaning all people, and therefore ``all men'' have to rise above their cattle-like state, and take action. [mjs/mjm/dhs]


- Union Temple Baptist Church -

- Wednesday, April 18, 2001 -

Order of speakers:

Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad, Moderator
Rev. Willie Wilson, Pastor, Union Temple Baptist Church
Dennis Speed, Schiller Institute
Kevin Chavous, D.C. City Council
Dr. Michal Ann Young, D.C. General Hospital
Dr. Simmon Wilcox, Aliquippa Community Hospital
Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General, Clinton Administration
Philip Mendelson, D.C. City Council
Rev. James Bevel, Civil Rights leader
Lynne Speed, Schiller Institute


It's Wednesday evening. So, do you know where the true citizens of the District of Columbia are? Right here in Union Temple Baptist Church, once again. And we want to thank Rev. Willie Wilson and the Union Temple Baptist Church family for once again, for extending their gracious hospitality to the citizens of the District of Columbia, to allow us, once again, to convene a lawful meeting of this citizens of the District of Columbia to discuss our business, in point of fact, our public hospital, D.C. General Hospital. And so, to open our meeting properly, in prayer, and with words of inspiration, let us bring forward, our beloved brother, Minister, Rev. Dr. Willie Wilson....

- The Scent of Victory -

...And I think Rev. Wilson is right. I think I do smell the scent of victory in the air. And the elements of victory are what we want to emphasize tonight. Tonight is a very powerful, powerful town meeting. I'm glad you're here, and anybody who comes late, they're going to miss something very good. We have some heavyweights, who are weighing in on the right side of this great issue around D.C. General Hospital. I don't know -- I heard rumors that some members of the City Council may be here. We're certainly expecting Kevin Chavous, or at least representatives from his office to be here. Are they here now? If not, they may join us later. And I think that the City Council is doing what we elected them to do: To stand up for the people of the District of Columbia.

So tonight, as you look at your program, we're going to get a strategic overview from Dennis Speed, and then from D.C. General Hospital, the Chief Medical Officer, or the Chief of the Medical-Dental staff, Dr. Michal Young. And then we have a special guest, all the way from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. This is someone that you don't know, but you soon will get to meet him. It's Dr. Simmon Wilcox, and he's going to tell us about something that we didn't think could happen, because part of what we learned, as we got involved with this issue of trying to save D.C. General Hospital is, they've been closing down hospitals all over the country. And, depending on who you talk to, they say, 1,500, 2,000 hospitals have already been shut down in the last 15 years, and every time citizens try to get together to try to stop the closing of another hospital, the citizens always lose. Well, Dr. Wilcox from Aliquippa, Penn., is here to announce a victory with the same company that tried to take over their hospital in Pennsylvania. They just kicked them out last week! [Applause.] So, we can win this fight. We are going to win this fight. Is that right?

And then, as if that was not enough, we have one of the super-heavyweights in the area of health care: the former Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Joycelyn Elders -- you see her, seated there. We're going to hear from her. And this is just so inspiring. Because anytime people of that quality, of that caliber, join your side of the fight, then you know you're going to win. Because if you transpose the question: Who do they have on their side the equal of Dr. Elders? They don't have nobody like that!

And then, we also have another super-heavyweight, someone that you may know, some of you who are deeply knowledgeable about the civil rights struggle. You know who I'm talking about. We all know Dr. Martin Luther King, and the great victories that he won all over the South against incredible odds. But, although every movement needs a spokesman, behind that spokesman, there needs to be somebody who is, what you might call, a field general. Somebody that does the real on-the-ground organizing, putting the grassroots elements together, getting the armies organized, and marching, and mobilized in the right direction, at the right time. Making it all happen, so that what the spokesman said out front, actually comes to pass. And we have Dr. King's field general with us, the Rev. James Bevel. You're gonna hear from him.

See, because when you're in a war, and this is really a war, you need a general. Especially if you've never been in a war before, you need somebody that's a seasoned warrior. And so, I'm anxious to hear from Rev. Bevel. And then we have a message from the National Medical Association; that will be given by Dr. Galladie [ph], who's, of course, a member of this church, and a former chair of psychiatry at Howard University Hospital. And then we will have our announcements and upcoming attractions by Miss Lynne Speed. But, before we get into the meat of our program, let me just say that this is the 11th town meeting, and you all are to commended for sticking in on something that is going much longer than I certainly thought it would go. But this is becoming a movement. And we are noticing all over the city, that the spirit of this movement is spreading among the people, far and wide. Some of you have been here from the very beginning. How many of you were at the very first town meeting, 11 weeks ago? Okay, and you're here now. And haven't you learned a lot? Because the format that we use for these town meetings, was the format that was developed in the Civil Rights movement and in the anti-war movement, because the government was putting out a lot of propaganda. They were suppressing information. They knew that this is a government of, by, and for the people, but they know that the people are no better than the information that they have at their disposal. You can't stand up and be a citizen if you're in the dark, if you don't know what's going on. If it's a shell game, and you can't see where the action is. And so, back in the '60s, they developed this technique called a "teach-in," where people would come. And just ordinary citizens, people like you and me, who had done a little research here, a little research there, we would put our two cents in, and by the time you added up all of those two cents, then you really started having something of value. And before it was all over, ordinary men, ordinary women, ordinary citizens of this country became the experts on civil rights, became the experts on voting rights, Became the experts on human rights, became the experts on the war in Vietnam, because they had done their homework. You remember the first town meeting: The health adviser to the Mayor, Dr. Ivan Walks, he stood at the rostrum in this church, and told us that we needed to do our homework. Well, we've done our homework. We've done our homework. We've been digging, and digging, and digging, and each one has come with a little bit; nobody came with the whole story, but everybody brought there little bit. And when we added those little bits together, we began to see what was really going on with D.C. General Hospital. In the beginning, we thought that there was something wrong with D.C. General Hospital. But then the CEO of D.C. General Hospital, Mr. Michael Barch, told us that he had been hired to shut the hospital down, because he had been told that the hospital was no good. But when he took over as CEO, he found out that it wasn't a bad hospital. It was a great hospital! That the professional staff and the auxiliary staff --that they were great. And then we found that the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, that rates hospitals, had given D.C. General the highest rating of any hospital in the city. They would have gotten 100%, but they knocked six points off, because of the deteriorated physical facility. And we know why the physical facility had deteriorated: because of the chronic underfunding of D.C. General.

- A Movement Based on Love -

Now, this is a movement that is based on love. There's nothing hateful about anything that is being said or done in this place. This is a house of God. Mr. Omer's opinion notwithstanding. What kind of love- movement is this? Well, first of all, we love God. We love God. And this movement is composed of people of all faiths. Some are Muslims, some are Christians, some are Jewish, some are of other faiths. All the denominations. Everybody is here, because we understand one thing: The only way that we can show our love for God is to demonstrate it to one another. The only way that we can serve a God who is above need, is to serve our fellow man. And so that's what we understand D.C. General to be. D.C. General is not a hospital that is set up on the idea of making money. D.C. General is a hospital that is set up for service to the poor, and since we got a whole lot of poor people: Jesus said, "The poor, you have with you always." So that means you always have to have a public hospital that doesn't mind taking care of the poor. We're interested in health care, not wealth care. The wealthy people, they can build their condos someplace else. We're not against them having condos, hotels, marinas, and anything else they want to build. They can build all of those things, but not on the site of D.C. General Hospital! That's what we're saying: Go somewhere else with that! D.C. General Hospital is sacred ground. It is consecrated for the care of the poor and the indigent and those who have no other options. We cannot allow a policy or plan to go forward that is so mean-spirited, that it would deny the poor the only option that they have.

And so this is a movement that is about the love of God, and the love of humanity. And the love of our city. We know where we are. This is the nation's capital. What would we look like in the eyes of the world if we shut down the only public hospital in the nation's capital? What would that say about all of us? It would say a terrible thing about us, that we would allow public health to be destroyed in the nation's capital. And that would destroy the hope of people all over the country, and in fact, all over the world. They would become demoralized. And so this is a battle that we find ourselves in, not because we are people that like to fight. We don't like to fight. We like peace and harmony. But when you start messing with D.C. General Hospital, that's where we have to draw the line. Some things are worth fighting for.

But how are we going to fight? Well, the only thing we have to fight with, is truth. And so we found out at the first town meeting that the Health Adviser to the Mayor, Dr. Walks, could not explain to our satisfaction, the Mayor's plan. After he got done explaining it, it still didn't make sense. Then two weeks after that, the Mayor himself was here, right in this spot, to explain his own plan. And after he got done explaining it, it still didn't make sense. And then we started to realize the awful truth: The reason why this plan cannot be explained, is because it really doesn't make sense. When you examine the elements of this plan, it does not contain within it, anything that makes sense to a reasonable man or woman. It's not personal against the Mayor or his administration. It's nothing like that at all. It's just that we want a health-care plan in the city of Washington, D.C. that makes sense, that takes care of those that need to be taken care of. We weren't trying to say that one proposal or another proposal -- 'cause we didn't even know what the proposals were. We were just trying to say, at the end of the day, when the dust settles, we want to have a full-service, fully funded, public hospital, and put it in the budget. That's what we want. [loud applause]

Because even after this process is over -- and I'm here to announce, since I smell victory -- you know what that means to me? It means that the Mayor's plan is dead on arrival. It's dead on arrival. I understand it's been released and it's on the way to the City Council, as of today. But when it arrives on the table of the City Council, it is already dead. [Audience: "Put a tag on the toe."] That's right. We're going to put a tag on the toe! [Laughter]. And we're not going to get fooled later on, if somebody comes up with another plan that's a no-good plan, because we're clear about what we want! We want a full- service, fully-funded public hospital. So if somebody comes up with another plan, and it's not a full- service, fully funded, public hospital, we don't want it. Don't waste our time with something else. So, these town meetings have yielded a lot of benefits, and we're fighting with truth. And as I quoted many times, the Holy Koran has a verse that says, "Nay, we hurl truth at falsehood," till we make truth knock falsehood's brains out. And so, that's what we've been doing. We've been hurling truth at falsehood. And so later on in the meeting, Lynne Speed is going to expose the 22 lies that are in the Mayor's letter. That's hurling truth at falsehood. Knocking falsehood's brains out.

But the point I want to close on is this: That where we are now in this struggle, is that it is Congress that is really who is going to try to decide this issue, not that they should -- it really should be decided between the Mayor's office and the City Council -- that's the meaning of local government. And then we as citizens, we should be lobbying the Mayor, as we're going, we should be lobbying the City Council, as we're doing. But because of the special circumstances of the District of Columbia, people in Congress, from all over the country, they are already involved in our affairs. And so we can never forget, those of us who are serious about this fight, we can never forget that the most important activity that we have done throughout these 11 or 12 weeks, is that we have lobbied Congress directly, realizing that our non- voting Congressional Delegate has been missing in action. Silent in the extreme degree. We the citizens of the District of Columbia, understanding our rights and obligations, as well as responsibilities as citizens, men and women created in the image and the likeness of God, we have understood that it is our duty to march on Capitol Hill. Go into the hallways of Congress and sit down, eyeball to eyeball, kneecap to kneecap, with the elected members of Congress and argue our case. And with the information that we have derived from attending these town meetings, we've got the information. We've got the truth. We've got the facts, and no matter where we have gone, even to the Control Board itself, where we have met them on a level playing field, and we were able to argue our case, our case is stronger against the Mayor's plan, than their case is for the Mayor's plan. And so that gives us the victory, as long as we don't stop fighting. So we've got to keep the pressure on.

- Getting Congress To Do the Right Thing -

And so, tomorrow is Thursday, and we want to be at One Judiciary Square at 12 noon, for a rally in front of the Control Board, in front of the Mayor's office, and then, at 1:00, we march from One Judiciary Square to Capitol Hill, where we will deploy in platoons, and squads, and brigades. And we will visit members of Congress, and we will talk to them in a reasonable fashion, and tell them about D.C. General Hospital, and what it means to us as the citizens, and ask them to do the right thing. We don't have a Congressional representative. So we, the citizens, have to go directly, and interact with those who have been elected from other jurisdictions, and remind them that they are elected to represent the country as a whole, even though they come from a local district, yet and still, they are a member of Congress, and they have to represent the country as a whole. They have to represent all of the citizens, and that includes the residents of the District of Columbia. And we have to remind them, that they are Constitutionally bound to protect and defend the General Welfare, and not shareholder value. That's what it means when you turn a public hospital like D.C. General over into private hands. It means that you're turning it over into private shareholders, who are interested in the bottom line. And you're turning it over to an organization called Doctors Community Healthcare Corp. This town meeting found out that this is just about what you might call an organized criminal organization. We found out that they want to turn our hospital over into an organization that is under criminal indictment in four states, where they have defrauded people all over the country. Where they sign contracts one month and then turn their backs and walk out the next month. Where they are accused of embezzling $12 million from the patient-care account at the Boston Regional Medical Center. Why would they want to turn our hospital over into the hands of these kinds of people? It just doesn't make sense. It's not reasonable, it's not right, it's not just, it's not fair, and we won't stand for it. So, when you go to Capitol Hill, you have all the arguments on your side. Just open your mouth and just speak. And you will be surprised at the influence you will win among those who hear what you have to say.

And so at this time, we want to get into the meat of our program. And so to get a strategic overview of what this is all about, let me invite to the speaker's stand, Mr. Dennis Speed.

- We Will Fund the Hospital -


Thank you. Thank you. I guess, Pastor Wilson, I can go home now. Thank you. Y'all make me feel right welcome here. First of all, to our panelists, our host Reverend Wilson, I heard Dr. Speed, Dr. Elders, all the panelist, Reverend Bevel, who I've known for many years, Dr. Alim Muhammad. Years ago, you need to know, that Dr. Muhammad and I co-sponsored a health fair in Ward 7, where we talked about some of these various issues. Let's give all of them a round of applause for their leadership. I will be brief, because we do have an excellent panel assembled here. I do want to follow up on one thing that Dr. Muhammad alluded to, and that is, where things stand. I want to give you some feedback on that. Folks, I am so proud of my colleagues on the City Council [applause]. When all 13 of us, ALL 13, and I'm gonna tell you: We don't have no 13-0 votes. We just don't have that. But when 13 of the members of the City Council all stand together, in the face of intense opposition, from Capitol Hill, from the Mayor's office, from the Control Board, from members of the business community, in the wake of all that opposition, for my colleagues to say, "NO. We're not going to shut this hospital down." [sustained applause] And not only are we going to vote to keep the hospital open, we're going to put our money where our mouths are, Mr. Mayor. So we will fund the hospital for the next year. And that's what we did last week. [Applause]

Now, where it stands is: The Mayor can veto that action, and it takes nine votes to override the veto. Well, we got them votes. [applause] We've got those votes. And then, once we override, and we will, 13-0, we will override, once that happens, it is in the hands of the Control Board. And you know what a member of the media said to me, and then I'll sit down. I just want to share this with you. He said, "Now, Councilman, don't you feel that you're threatening home rule [laughter], by doing something Congress doesn't want you to do?" I said, "Well, what are they going to do? Take away our right to vote?" [laughter] "What are they going to do? Take away our budget autonomy? Our legislative autonomy? What are they going to do? Take away our voting members of Congress? I mean, what are they going to do? Put in a Control Board to oversee what we do?" [laughter, applause] You know what, under these circumstances, I'll take my chances with Congress. I'll take my chances. [applause] Sometimes when your back's up against the wall, you ain't got nowhere else to go but forward! And to me, this vote is a vote on moving forward. And we're going to continue that fight. God bless each and every one of you, and we are going to WIN, 'cause we are RIGHT. Thank you.

- Aliquippa: David and Goliath -


Good afternoon. First of all, I have to look at my daughter, who was sitting there a moment ago. She went somewhere; my 27-year-old daughter, and tell her, they tricked your daddy. When they asked me to come down and speak a little bit, they didn't tell me anything about the dynamic speakers who would precede me, or follow me. [laughter]

I'm from a little town called Aliquippa, a little steel-mill town that lost all the steel, and they got me down here, speaking to you from D.C. So, I've reduced my thoughts to about 12 minutes, just to share with you what would have happened -- But let me begin by sharing with you that I've travelled a fair amount. And I've been to Canada, and to Russia, before the change in Russia, to the Asiatic part of Russia, Leningrad, South Africa, four times, Morocco, spent a year practicing down in Jamaica about 24 months ago, Mexico, etc. And what I realized, and I think about the experience I had in this small hospital I had in Cape Town, where we were diagnosing about 25 new HIV cases a day, and they had no medicine, and it was painful. And the problem with most people -- because I could stand in front of that hospital and look up the top of the mountain, and see the hospital where they performed the first heart transplant ever in the world, a quality hospital, great care, but 80% of the population had no access. They had plenty of medicine to treat those HIV-patients behind those walls, but they had no access. And I said, when I was there, and I was standing there with Prince Muzi [ph], Mandela's son-in-law. At the time, I stated, "That wouldn't happen in my home. Not in my America, that wouldn't happen." And I'm sorry to say today, we're moving very much towards that situation. Health care is the crown jewel of America, and access to health care is what distinguishes us from all those other countries. And look at what we're doing here in D.C. I was the vice president of the medical staff for six years, and then on for two years, at my hospital, called Aliquippa, and we were having some financial difficulty, and we elected to sell our hospital to UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which is rated by U.S. News and World Report as the number one hospital in the United States. And we were excited, and they came in with 120 doctors, and worked better health care for our community, a poor community, a blighted community -- 40% of the residents are black, many are unemployed, many underinsured. About eight months ago, they decided to close our hospital because the bottom line was that they were losing money. I was still in Jamaica. My colleagues and my patients called me, and said, "You gotta come back. They're gonna close the hospital. We need your help." So I packed up, and I came back home to Aliquippa, and we successfully gained the hospital back from UPMC. We probably made the most phenomenal deal in the country. We had $30 million worth of renovations. We have a brand-new hospital returned to us with zero debt. Well, we were happy. We were jubilant. And then in the middle of our celebration, our board came to us and said, "We found someone to manage the hospital." And I said, "Well, who are they?" And they said, "They're called Doctors Community Healthcare." And I said, "Well, we never really heard of them. Have you done your [inaud]?" They said, "Well, we called Wall Street, and they have excellent bond ratings. And they got a great website." [laughter] I said, "And...?" "And they got a great website." I said, "Did you talk to any of the hospitals where they've been before? Have you talked to any of the doctors who work for them?" "Well, no. But they got more money than God." I said, "Well...?" So, we picked up the phone, and we called Boston. And we called Chicago. And we called Kentucky. And we found a re-occurring theme, that this outfit likes to show up at broken hospitals, and break them further. They went to Boston, where they were bidding for who was going to buy the hospital. They presented the lowest bid, chased all the other higher bidders away, and then, at the 11th hour, dropped their bid even further. And then, they managed it into bankruptcy. They did it in Chicago; they did it in Kentucky. They have a process where they like to borrow money against receivables, and that's a routine process in the health-care industry. But they present a proposal that looks like they're paying 16 or 17%, and when you figure out all these hidden fees, you're really paying 26 and 27% on the money they borrowed, with your money. We went back to the board and said, "You've got to listen to us, because, I know you called Wall Street, but we called the doctors, and this is what we found out." And the board was very resistant. They had their mind made up that Doctors Community had convinced them that they were the choice to manage our hospital.

Fortunately, as a result of a newspaper article, Phil Valenti of the LaRouche group, saw my name and called me, and told me what was happening here in D.C. And I said, "You've got to come to our little town and help us. Because someone needs to tell the story about this particular group. Within 24 hours, he was there. We had a news conference. He met with the board members. Phil is there in the second row. And I'm so glad he came, because today -- as of yesterday -- we have our hospital back. And as of a week ago, they cancelled the five-year contract we were going to have with DCHC, with Doctors Community Healthcare. [applause]

And I'll share this following experience I had in Jamaica, and then I'll be through. There was a lady, oh, maybe 70 years of age, a Jamaican lady, who came to me while I was practicing there, and she had this large, festering lesion. And I knew immediately what the diagnosis was, and what she needed to have, but I, almost apologetically, would approach her, realizing in my head, that she probably couldn't afford the medicine I was about to offer her to fix her problem. And she stopped me. She said, "Son, your medicine is not expensive. The expensive medicine was the medicine they gave me 14 months ago, the medicine that didn't work, the medicine that left me crippled, the medicine that left me unable to function, unable to take care of my grandchildren. That medicine was expensive." I say to you that the D.C. issue is a festering issue. And that the decision by the Financial Control Board is a cheap solution to a major problem, that's going to leave you with a festering problem in your community. You have the opportunity to stop it now. You have the opportunity to stand up. Realize we all speak for those who are invisible to the medical system, those who are invisible politically. We speak for those who will have, or who have not yet had their heart attacks, we speak for those who will have, but have not yet had been diagnosed with HIV, we speak for those who will have, but have not yet experienced their drive-by; we speak for those who are yet unborn, and we have an inherent responsibility to ensure that they have a full-service (what is it?), well-funded, integrated health system here in D.C.

- Don't Be Afraid of Failure -


Thank you very much. You know, Dr. Muhammad is trying to make me older than I am. He said I was in the previous Carter administration. That's because he's young and spry. But I have to tell him, you know, I tell people all the time: I realize that as we get older, and people say that we're aging. But I tell them all the time, "Don't worry. The only thing you have to do to age, is don't die." I'm not aging, I'm sage-ing! So I'm still going around complaining, and talking about problems. In fact, I was asked by the media tonight, "Well, why did you come?" Well, first of all, I came because I was asked. Number one. You know, I didn't just volunteer to come here, but I came because I was asked about something that I believe in. All of you know that if I don't believe in something, I don't run around pretending I do. My mom told me, she says, "Always speak the truth." She said, "The day you see the truth, and cease to speak the truth, is the day you begin to die." And all of you know, I'm going to live forever.

The second thing I want to do, is I want to thank Rev. Wilson [sustained applause], for opening up his church, on a Wednesday night, and having us all here. You know, that says to me, that this is a church who do what they say they believe. You know, we have churches all over, preaching one thing, and doing something else. If you believe that you have to have the spirit and faith, and all of that, well then, we have to act proper. And so, we want to thank him for that. Mr. Speed gave us a wonderful overview of what we need: important information that we need to appreciate where we are, why we're fighting the kinds of battles we're fighting. Why we're dealing with politicians that have never seen this part of our city. So, we thank him for that. We certainly -- I bet the only political group in this country that's ever had a 13-0 vote, or a 100-0 vote related to health care was the D.C. Council [applause]. You know how we are, you know we believe in having health care for the haves, and sick care for the have-nots. If we start talking about prisons, jails, we always go out and vote to tax to build a jail. But when we start talking about food, start talking about hospitals, start talking about health care for the poor, where are we? "We don't have the money." But we always got plenty of money to build another jail to send another young person out to the prison [sustained applause]. Since 1980, we've spent far more money on jails than we've spent on schools. And we wonder why we have so many young, black men in prison, where very often we're sending them to schools and they graduate from high schools with diplomas that they can't read. Shoes that light up when they walk, and a brain that goes dead when they talk! [applause] We've got to make sure that we prepare our young people, and teach them how to be healthy. You know, when I was your Surgeon General, I complained and said, "We need to educate young people on how to be healthy." And they kept saying, "Well, Dr. Elders what you want to do is teach 'em how to have sex." Well, first of all, let me tell you: Nobody has to teach anybody how to have sex! [laughter, applause] God taught 'em how to have sex! But as long as they can walk around and talk about reproductive health, talk about women not being able to plan their own lives, not knowing, and talking about abortion issues, they didn't have to talk about health, because they could use this as an excuse for health care, and we've allowed it to happen.

So, I'm saying that not only is this happening all over, all over our country, and we've got to wake up, and to me, what this community is standing up for, what you're being noted for tonight: Don't worry about hospital closing. You aren't here fighting about a hospital closing. Don't let that be your fight. Let your fight be about be about opening in the eyes of this community, to make sure we have the kind of health-care system that we need for this entire community. We need a full-service hospital to be the centerpiece, and then we need more than that: We need to educate our people. We need to make sure we have clinics all around to provide service to our people. We need to provide primary, preventive health care. We are about keeping people healthy. Not about taking care of them while they're dying.

So, I'm saying, I think we need this hospital. You can't have just a primary-care plan. You've got to have secondary care, and you've got to have tertiary care. And I think Dr. Young illustrated to us beautifully the very importance of providing tertiary care, and having our tertiary-care hospital in the center of an area that has a lot of poor, under-served community, with limited access to care. There are multiple health problems, and I don't have to tell you what they are. Many people have told you what they are, even before I got up here. You know that they're the least likely to have health insurance. They're least likely to have transportation; so if they don't have transportation, how can they get to that clinic, all the way across town?

So, we've got to understand what the real problems are. And begin to deal with the real issues. And I feel that this community has gotten together, and worked this hard, trying to keep this hospital from closing, let me tell you, if you fail, if you disappear, that's the worst thing you can do. Because you need to keep on pushing. And don't worry; if you measure your success by your failures, you always feel worthless. So make sure that you keep on working. You know, I was told two or three times, now: "Why, Dr. Elders, why do you come here now? It's all over. It's all done. There is nothing you can do." Well, you see, I'm a doctor. And I'm saying that nobody is ever dead, until there is not another heartbeat that I can make come about. So you just keep fighting, and keep on working. [applause] Now, I could talk forever, but I'm not going to, because I want to hear what you want to talk about. Today, you've set a goal, and that's to save D.C. General Hospital. But don't let that be a goal, don't let that be an end in itself. As I have often said, "Don't procrastinate." You are out there fighting. Don't be afraid of failure. The only time you can afford to fail, is the last time you try. So keep pushing. Don't be afraid to be a pioneer. And don't be afraid of pain change. You know that I always tell people that you have to go out and take some risks. I'm not telling you to take as many as I took, but I'm just saying that in order to bring about change, we have to take some risk. If you never push the button, I can guarantee you, you'll never have change. So we've to make sure you go out and push the button. Don't give up. You've got to persevere. The road to success is littered with those who gave up. So just keep moving. Keep going and keep moving out. And I'll tell you something, that I often end with. It's something my bishop told me, a long time ago. You know, I've been called an atheist, everything but a child of God, but the people that was calling me that, Reverend, probably hadn't seen half as many insides of churches as I had. But, be that as it may, he said, "Dr. Elders," he said, "you know, you're in public health, and when you're fighting and trying to preserve the rights, and help the people," he said, "it's like dancing with a bear." He said, "Always remember, that when you're dancing with a bear, you can't get tired and sit down. You've got to wait until the bear gets tired. And then, you sit down." [Laughter, applause]


The Michigan state legislature has introduced House Concurrent Resolution 0027, "A Concurrent Resolution to Memorialize the Congress of the United States to Keep D.C. General Hospital Open as a Public Institution." The chief Sponsor is Rep. Artina Tinsley Hardman, Chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. The resolution (see text below) which has been assigned to committee, is quite significant. It has a total of 35 co-sponsors, which in addition to the Black Caucus members, and the Minority Leader of the House, includes most of the top leadership of the Democrats in the House. TEXT OF RESOLUTION

Whereas, Without swift action, D.C. General Hospital in our nation's capital will close as a public entity very soon. This move has generated opposition from many observers in Washington and elsewhere, including prominent medical organizations; and

Whereas, D.C. General Hospital is noted for providing life-saving services to the city's poor. The hospital stands as a symbol of the struggles and commitment of America's urban hospitals; and

Whereas, Concerns over the possible closing of D.C. General Hospital have been expressed across the country. Many city health officials and policymakers see this venerable institution, which was opened in 1806, as representing the nation's commitment to providing appropriate health care services to population groups that include many patients who are minorities and many who are poor and uninsured. The thought of this hospital -- which serves as a safety net for thousands with nowhere else to turn -- shutting its doors is most disturbing to those dedicated to America's inner cities; and

Whereas, How a country treats its disadvantaged people is a significant reflection on the country's character and priorities. This is why so many people in other parts of the nation, including Detroit and other cities in Michigan, feel Congress should take actions to halt the closing of D.C. General Hospital as a public entity;

Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the HoR (Senate concurring), That we memorialize the Congress of the United States to keep D.C. General Hospital open as a public institution;

and be it further Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the US Senate, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and members of the Michigan Congressional delegation. The concurrent resolution was referred to the Committee on Health Policy." The resolution has 35 cosponsors.

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