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October 23, 2018

Speech – The Union’s 7th President’s Centennial Dinner

Your Imperial Highness, Your Royal Highness, Your Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Ambassadors, benefactors and friends…

Thank you for joining us tonight in this beautiful and auspicious place for the 2018 Centennial Dinner.

I am so pleased that The Netherlands is hosting this year’s Union World Conference. I want to say a special thank you to our partner KNCV. KNCV is such a vital institution, and they have been a close partner of The Union’s for almost a century. So I want to thank Kitty and her team for their leadership, and for the work they have done in support of this year’s World Conference.

It has been a long time since the World Conference met here in The Netherlands. The first time was in 1932. As we know from history, that was a very tumultuous year for many countries in the world.

That year the stock market reached its lowest point of the Great Depression. There was famine in the Soviet Union. Fascism was taking over governments in Europe. Adolf Hitler was rising to power in Germany.

These were the events unfolding across Europe when delegates from twenty-eight countries came together here in The Netherlands, in Amsterdam, for the eighth conference of the International Union Against Tuberculosis.

The proceedings from that Amsterdam conference show how the people of The Union saw it as their duty to shine a bright light, even during the darkest times.

I want to share an excerpt from those conference proceedings that stands out to me. I believe it shows that among scientific organizations, The Union has always been unique.

The record reads: “Now, in 1932, it is The Union’s work to unify all spiritual energies from across the world, to use that cooperation in order to build on what previous scientists have done, to expand science’s domain and knowledge of tuberculosis.”

Think about the message they were sending: It is The Union’s work to unify all spiritual energies from across the world…to USE that cooperation to build on what previous scientists have done.

This is not a normal thing you hear from a scientific organization.

And I think it shows us something very important and very special about The Union.

Since our earliest days, The Union has used science to pursue a larger endeavor, which is to unite people in a holistic mission to end TB and other diseases that harm our communities and cause so much suffering in our world.

For us, science has always been—and science will always be—a light that illuminates a path out of that suffering and helps people to fulfill their whole human potential.

As executive director, I’m privileged to see the people of The Union doing exactly this work every day.

The Union is not just conducting world-class scientific research—we are turning the knowledge we gain into solutions for the most urgent health challenges people are facing today. Our staff and our members are implementing those solutions in some of the most challenging environments in the world.

Many are working within communities most impacted by TB and lung disease—including The Union’s twenty-four thousand community health workers who are serving in India, Zimbabwe, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries.

I’m so proud of the diversity, the dedication, and the enthusiasm of the people who make up The Union.

They are continuing in the spirit of those delegates who gathered here in 1932, standing on the foundation of science, and uniting people in a worldwide mission against TB and other deadly and disabling conditions.

I also want to tell you all how grateful I am to you. Our greatest supporters are here in this room tonight. You stand with us. You partner with us. The Union would not be the leader it is today without you.

My request is that you continue standing with us, because we are in a critical moment.

As you’ll hear during the conference this week, TB has risen to the attention of world leaders. Just a few weeks ago, at the UN General Assembly, virtually all of the world’s countries came together and made a dramatic pledge to end the TB epidemic.

This has never happened before. With that pledge, TB has now risen to a higher place on the global political agenda than we have ever seen in our lifetimes.

This is a huge opportunity, and I know it’s one that we will seize together. Again, I thank you on behalf of The Union for your incredible support. 

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