Thank you, President
Today we are
gathered to honor a great American, the Honorable Congressman Louis
Stokes: A champion of justice for the citizens of the 11th
Congressional District...for the City of Cleveland...for the State
of Ohio...and for the Nation.
Clevelander who grew up on the poor side of town serves as a
model of excellence for every single American, the poor or rich,
black or white, yellow or red. He is truly a great American
Today we are
gathered to honor our friend, Louis Stokes, and name our Health
Sciences Center, in his honor.
What does the
naming of our great Health Sciences Center, the Louis Stokes Health
Sciences Center, mean? Through my eyes, it means that for all
who are here today, and for generations yet unborn, our University
truly recognizes the great contributions of Congressman Stokes and
truly values and embraces all people and all ethnic groups. It
adds to that essential feeling of "home" for the minority so that we
will no longer be a stranger visiting in someone else's home.
I have walked this
campus since the day I graduated from Central Senior High School in
1952. I have always admired and reflected upon the greatness
of those individuals after whom our buildings are named: the
Frieberger Library, the Sears Tower, Mather Hall, Thwing Hall, Allen
Memorial Library, Severance, the Millkin Room, Al and Norma Lerner.
They are all great names, representing great people, however, none
of them looked like me.
So today I am
bursting with pride that the Health Sciences Center at our great
university is forever and forever and forever named after
Congressman Stokes. He has a long history of working for
improved access to health care for all Americans, especially those
who are socially and economically disadvantaged. And though he
has worked on education and ethics, intelligence and surveillance
for our nation, his greatest fervor seems to have been saved for his
many efforts to support health care for the underserved of our
It is a fervor and
a passion that I share with him. But in my comments today, I'm
not going to talk about the disparity in health care for minorities
in our nation, nor will I focus on the fact that many inner city
communities in America have a higher infant mortality rate than some
third world countries nor that underrepresented minorities and the
poor are dying from curable diseases at an alarming rate. No,
today I want to focus upon how far we have come. Today I want
to recognize and celebrate with joy the enormous contributions of
our Louis Stokes.
I first met
Congressman Stokes in 1969, a year after he became the first black
member of Congress from the state of Ohio, when I was a resident in
Internal Medicine at Cleveland Metro General Hospital. Late on
a Saturday afternoon, my father-in-law died suddenly and
unexpectedly. At that time, my brother-in-law (my
father-in-law's youngest son), was half way around the world in the
Navy. Our family was distressed and had great concern that we
reach Richard and get him home to share in our grief. We
thought we would have to wait until Monday to try to get help.
I decided to chance a call to the Congressman's office to see if I
could leave a message for Monday. To my great surprise (and by
now, it was about 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday) after the first or second
ring, a pleasant voice came on the phone with, "Good evening.
Congressman Stokes. May I help you?"
I was stunned that
a congressman was at work on a Saturday night and answering his own
phone. I told him our story and he said he would see what he
could do to help. The next day my brother-in-law was home.
I thought, "what a great man." First, he took a call from a
person whom he did not know, an ordinary citizen. Then he
listened to our problem and acted upon it to the very best of his
ability. I will never forget this act of kindness.
A true sign of
greatness is the ability to serve the common man. And
over the years, as I have come to realize that his response to an
unknown constituent 25 years ago, was and still is reflective of the
compassion he feels for all people. And his abiding concern is
no more evident than in his efforts on our behalf of providing
better health care for all Americans.
He has served on
the Pepper Commission on Comprehensive Health Care Reform for the
elderly, years before Health Care Reform became a popular issue.
He has served on the House Appropriations Committee and
subcommittees on labor and health as well as human services and
education. He has chaired the Congressional Black Caucus
Health Brain Trust for many years. He was the driving force
behind the creation of Morehouse Medical School in Atlanta, one of
four predominately black medical schools in our nation's 126 medical
schools. What is so terribly important here, is that the
mission of Morehouse Medical School is to prepare primary care
physicians for underserved areas. What a wonderful and noble
calling! Only now, in the 1990s, is the nation becoming caught
up in developing primary care physicians. Only now in the
1990s is American catching up to the vision that Congressman
Stokes and the leaders of Morehouse Medical College developed over a
At the local level
Louis Stokes has helped us with funding for the Ireland Cancer
Center at University Hospitals of Cleveland, for which he received
our "Cancer Victory Award" in 1991. He helped secure funding
for our Richard F. Celeste Biomedical Research Building, Healthy
People 2000, the Minority Affairs Office at our School of Medicine
and many other areas of our university.
Dr. Kerr White, a
great public health physician has asked the question, "By what
criteria do we assess the performance of medical schools?" I
would substitute for medical schools Health Professional Schools and
even universities. He answers "the degree to which it serves
the needs of the community that supports it and is served by it."
While we as a
university community have come a long way in enhancing cultural
diversity and a climate in which all in our community can be
comfortable, we still have a long way to go.
Too many people in
our community still see us as an unfriendly place, still wait too
long to come for health care, still remain too suspicious of our
motives when we reach out to them. We need to work harder to
assure that our excellence meets their needs better.
Today I ask that
all of us rededicate ourselves to the values and excellence of the
model being honored today: Congressman Louis Stokes.
Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr., has said, "Everybody can be great because everybody can
serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve, you
don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve, you
don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve, you don't
have to know Einstein's theory of Relativity to serve, you don't
have to know the second theory of thermodynamics. You only
need a heart full of grace, a heart full of love to serve."
We are grateful
for the grace and love of Congressman Louis Stokes. We are
grateful for all that he has done on our behalf. Please
believe me when I say that the greatest honor in my life is to be
here today to participate in and witness the dedication of the Case
Western Reserve University Louis Stokes Health Sciences Center.
Because today we are gathered to honor Louis Stokes. But
friends, in his actions, in his words, in his deeds, and in his love
for his fellow man, it is truly Louis Stokes who honors us.
Thank you and God