Never Give Up on People – A Message from Ben Franklin and the Surgeon General

As we begin Summer 2022, COVID continues to occupy a significant portion of our time and attention. While vaccines, therapies, and drugs have all had a significant impact on hospitalizations and fatalities, the disease remains a significant threat to many, particularly those who are immunocompromised.

While a full description and debate of the successes and failures that we have had as a society in combatting the pandemic is outside the scope of this blog, I read an article from the New York Times that offers us an important reminder as change agents.

Photo of a man and a woman giving each other high 5

The article entitled, “Ben Franklin’s Vaccine Lessons” was published in March of this year. It provides a fascinating look at the history of inoculations and how Franklin’s courageous decision to publicly describe how his son Franky died not of inoculation from smallpox, but from the disease itself, played a key role in helping convince people to accept the safety and efficacy of disease inoculation.

Building on the lessons learned from this history, the article goes on to argue that personal persuasion through the sharing of experiences is still the best method of convincing those that doubt the vaccines, therapies and drugs to try them. The Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, underscores the important of persistence in this regard stating,

“As a doctor, I was always trained you never give up on people — you show up. You build trust by listening to people, helping them feel they’re respected and valued.”

The example of Franklin and Dr. Murthy’s advice is directly applicable to the work that we do as change agents. First, we need to share our personal experiences. We need to be transparent with our successes and failures. We need to be courageous, as Franklin was, in letting the people that we serve know that this is not an easy journey upon which they are embarking.

Moreover, we need to never give up on the people that we coach. We need to listen to their concerns, respect their experience and meet them where they are at on their journey, not where we want them to be.

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