This past week, ONE fellow and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson was at Wheaton College in Illinois, where he participated in a post-election panel discussion with former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and others. Mr. Gerson also spoke at Edman Chapel on campus this morning.
A graduate of Wheaton College and current Hastert Center Fellow, Mr. Gerson is no stranger to campus. We were just there a few weeks ago, where we met with student leaders who were excited to take up the charge to fight extreme poverty across campus with ONE.
Getting to know Mr. Gerson and his passion for beating back global poverty, especially through smart policies like PEPFAR, has been a bit of an inspiration for us at ONE.
Here’s a snippet of his Wheaton chapel address:
“I’ve met nuns in Ethiopia who care for HIV-positive orphans, and a pastor in South Africa who promotes AIDS prevention among sex workers, and a pastor’s wife in Zambia who delivers patients to the hospital by bicycle, and a nurse in Uganda who began paying for the AIDS drugs of patients with her own money. By worldly standards, these are buried lives in remote places. They are actually some of the most powerful representatives of God on earth…
But compassion is also a corporate responsibility, in which all of us have a part. Evangelicals in the 19th century not only helped slaves, they opposed slavery. During the industrial revolution, they not only cared for orphans, they fought against child labor. And the fight against global disease, likewise, is both a personal calling and a national commitment.
My best experience in government was this: I sat in the Oval Office and watched President George W. Bush make the decision to approve the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – PEPFAR – the largest initiative to fight a single disease in human history. And I’ve seen the results. Until five or six years ago, in that orphanage in Ethiopia I mentioned earlier, the sisters could only hold the hands of children as they died. Not a single one survived. Some of the infants were blinded by infections. Some of them, I was told, asked the sisters, ‘Why can’t you come with me where I am going. Why do I have to go alone.’
But then the AIDS drugs started arriving. Now almost no children are dying at that orphanage. I saw infants who had their sight restored. I met children who had come back from the brink of death like Lazarus. It is the closest I have ever come to seeing the miracles of the New Testament. Americans should know about it and be proud of it – and Christians should be the strongest base of support for such works of healing and mercy. It is one public way of showing the image of the God we serve.”