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The University of Minnesota Duluth
BRIDGE - Fall 2008, Volume 26, #1
U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum
The Health of the World’s Children
U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) presented the 2008 Ben and Jeanne Overman Distinguished Lecture to an audience of community members, students, and staff in April 2008 in the Weber Music Hall.
McCollum opened her speech with a tribute to the lecture series founders, Ben and Jeanne Overman. “They were a couple who achieved the American dream – through hard work,” she said. She discussed the Overman’s generosity and their commitment to the “Jewish tradition of tzedakah . . . a commandment that requires those who can afford to, must help those who are less fortunate.” McCollum said, “Clearly the Overmans lived by this commandment and many have benefited, including us today.” She also praised the Overmans for making the world “a better place.”
In her speech, McCollum called on the U.S. government to make the world a better place as well, to save lives worldwide and make a commitment to ending global poverty.
Because nearly 10 million poor children die each year in developing countries, the majority from treatable and preventative causes, McCollum called for the U.S. to change its policies.
“One billion dollars a year in additional spending in child survival will save at least one million newborns and toddlers,” she said. “We’re spending so much more than that every three days in Iraq.’’
McCollum discussed low-cost interventions that could be effective immediately, and the use of inexpensive drugs that, for pennies a person, could save lives.
Some of the interventions require only education, such as the use of “kangaroo care” for infants born prematurely. “Nurses taught mothers to keep their low weight babies wrapped directly on their chests — skin to skin — allowing the mother’s body heat to serve as the incubation,” she said. Newborns gained weight and strength and as a result child mortality dropped in countries, such as Malawi, using this method.
She also called on America to partner with countries to create health care systems. “It is my belief that the United States has the ability, the resources, and the moral obligation to work in partnership with other wealthy nations, and make the investments to reduce global poverty.”
McCollum pointed out that the United States currently spends $36 billion, less than 1.5 percent of the federal budget, on international assistance. In comparison, this year the federal government will spend $260 billion just to pay the interest on the national debt.
McCollum also reported that around the world, a billion people, roughly one in six, live and die in extreme poverty. They make, on average, less than a $1 a day. “These are not disposable lives . . . . They are counting on us to be generous, wise, compassionate.”
A transcript of McCollum’s speech can be read online at www.d.umn.edu/unirel/homepage/08/mcc.html.
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