Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Perspective, Inspiration and Opportunity

Dr. Mario R. Capecchi just won the Nobel Prize in medicine.

This is certainly a tremendous accomplishment under any circumstances, but Dr. Capecchi's life story makes the achievement truly extraordinary and inspirational.

Dr. Capecchi's mother was sent to the Dachau concentration camp in 1941. For most of the next 5 years, beginning when he was about 4 years old, Capecchi was homeless and alone on a continent at war.

I'll leave the rest of the story to the article if you are interested.

I wish such lives were more celebrated. It reflects poorly on our society that rock stars and professional athletes are household names, but people such as Dr. Capecchi are not.

Both children and adults would benefit from exposure to these stories. Examining lives like Dr. Capecchi's puts our own personal obstacles in perspective and inspires us to persevere during adversity.

But I think such stories can teach us something else as well.

I can't help but wonder how many children, both in the United States and abroad, have had the same capacity as Mario Capecchi but have never realized it due to violence, poor health and/or no access to a sufficient education. How many Einsteins, Beethovens, Picassos, Shakespheares, Gandhis, Newtons, Jeffersons and Lockes have we (mankind) missed throughout our history for this reason?

After the most extreme deprivation in his earliest years, Capecchi eventually found security and opportunity in the United States.

His story is one distinguished by extraordinary strength and enormous ability... but its triumphant ending was enabled only when those qualities were finally paired with social justice.

Beyond inspiring us, Dr. Capecchi's life and achievements should make us realize that ensuring every single child's physical safety, health and education is more than an abstract moral obligation, it is also a worthwhile investment from which we will all benefit.