"Address Presented to the World Health Assembly, Geneva, Switzerland" [Reminiscence]
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Koop, C. Everett
Reproduced with permission of C. Everett Koop.
Address Presented to the World Health Assembly, Geneva, Switzerland (May 10, 1989)
Lecture Vol. 20 # 1 May 10, 1989
Address by C. Everett Koop, MD, ScD
Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Presented to the World Health Assembly
May 10, 1989
On my last appearance at the World Health Assembly on this date, I was given an award by the Executive Board called the Leon
Bernard Award, which I considered a great honor and took the occasion to make a few remarks in addition to thanking the gathering
for the honor they did me. I spoke of the pride I had as a physician and as an American in the tireless selfless work the
WHA did on behalf of the health of the human race in every comer of the world. I added to this statement of admiration my
approval of its goals and programs and that I was grateful for the privilege I had of defending WHA on two occasions before
the United Nations General Assembly itself.
I made it clear that I knew that many in the audience often accomplished their task in the face of what seemed to be overwhelming
adversities, whether natural, social, political, or economic.
Before giving this brief talk, many people asked me what I would leave as my farewell to WHA, which I had enjoyed serving
so much for eight years. What I wanted to leave behind was not so much a message, as it was a lesson, and it was one that
I had learned in the course of my eight-year association with WHO. I expressed it this way: "The world will one day know
full peace, when every nation will be able to achieve at least a minimum of economic health and stability. And the key to
that achievement is the physical and mental health of all the peoples of the world."
I stressed that I knew many would say it's the other way around, but I believe that the physical and mental health of
the people are the keys to their nation's ability to survive and peacefully compete with all nations. That is the heart
of international health.
I ticked off some of the major accomplishments of WHO and followed that by the major challenges, which I saw ahead.
I closed by reminding them what a privilege and honor I thought it was to have been their colleague for eight years.