Polio - An American Story

Books I’ve Read and Lessons Learned

As a former academic, I have always sought refuge amongst libraries and their books. And as the years have gone by, and I reflect on the books I have read, they remind me of one of Plato’s teachings: “Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”

Let’s start with a book relevant to what we are all facing in today’s world: the coronavirus pandemic. The novel is entitled “Polio: An American Story: The Crusade That Mobilized the Nation Against the 20th Century’s Most Feared Disease.” The author, David Oshinsky, won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2006 for this inspiring story of how brilliant minds conquered the deadly polio pandemic. One of the key lessons I learned from reading this book was the role philanthropy played in launching the research into both the origins of and cure for polio. The Rockefeller Institute became the hub for innovation where brilliant minds could gather under one roof without petty worries and distractions.

During the height of the Great Depression in the U.S., the philanthropy that launched the “March of Dimes” was able to transform this non-profit into the leading advocate for supporting victims of polio and funding research for a cure. The passage below reminded me of what our mission at Sparo is all about: a small donation with every purchase.
“Large gifts were hard to come by in the 1930s; the secret lay in small donations. Who wouldn’t contribute something to see a crippled child walk again.” The key was to reach millions through the modern media – people who had never given to a charity before or who, in truth, had never been asked.

Unfortunately, discrimination against women is another theme woven into the fabric of “Polio,” recounting Sister Elizabeth Kenny’s story, whose crusade against the close-minded medical elite of the time won her praise in the fight against polio. Still, in the end, “the establishment” prevailed. The lesson here is simple: men of quality must support gender equality!

So take a break from your Zoom calls and crack open “Polio: An American Story” – you will not be disappointed.’

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