Around the Institute

A Culture of Health is a Culture of Freedom

June 20, 2019  • Daniel R. Porterfield

Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield delivered the below remarks at the 2019 Aspen Ideas: Health Opening Session on June 20, 2019 in Aspen, CO. Follow him on Twitter @DanPorterfield.

Good afternoon, and welcome to Aspen Ideas: Health.

Thank you, Peggy [Clark], for that lovely introduction and for your leadership with Ruth Katz, Katie Drasser, Natalie Johnson, and your teams. Together, you have organized another extraordinary series of events, each of which helps us frame problems in ways that lead to needed solutions.

Thank you as well to Margaret Low and all friends at AtlanticLIVE for your generous partnership.

It’s wonderful to be here with all of you.

The vision of the Aspen Institute is a free, just, and equitable society. Health is essential to that vision.

For how can we be truly free if we are burdened by the fear of our loved ones suffering from diseases that could be prevented or cured?

How can our world be truly just if access to high quality healthcare or the most promising new therapies is determined by place, race, class, and sexual or gender identity?

And how can we build a society that is truly equitable when cultural and legal norms limit women’s lives, including their ability to make their own healthcare choices?

All of us here want this kind of society when we reflect upon the futures of our precious children and loved ones. This convening is about considering everyone as our children and loved ones—everyone in the country, and everyone on the planet. A culture of health is a culture of freedom.

The Aspen Institute believes that convenings like this one are essential to moving toward that vision of a free, just, and equitable society. Why do I say that? Because there is extraordinary power in building and gathering networks of values-driven leaders determined to make demonstrable differences in all the ways they can:

By writing legislation that expands access to needed care, or by finding and training the next generation of culturally competent healthcare providers, or by working through the ethics of the most revolutionary new technologies for altering life, or by addressing the social determinants of health like nutrition, housing, education, and income.

And let’s be clear: it’s values-driven leaders who make these differences.

I’m thinking of people here today like Ugandan human rights lawyer Primah Kwagala, who founded an initiative to help women and girls get access to free legal services.

Or like Lisa Fitzpatrick, founder and CEO of Grapevine, which helps Medicaid-managed care organizations help their patients improve their health literacy.

Or like siblings Hannah and Charlie Lucas—teenage entrepreneurs and mental health advocates—who co-created the app notOK which helps teens dealing with depression.

Or like Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who before entering public office spent three decades caring for the un- and underinsured, including co-founding a clinic that provides free dental and health care.

Or like Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore City health commissioner and current president of Planned Parenthood, who is brilliant and relentless in making sure women have access to the healthcare resources they want and need.

Thank you to all of our speakers and attendees for being here. It’s critical to gather together leaders to identify emerging needs, include new voices, share promising practices, and break down barriers to progress.

And that’s what Aspen Ideas: Health is all about—activating change, making an impact, getting results.

Thank you for being part of this bold, people-serving, change-making endeavor.

And now, I’m thrilled to welcome to the stage Margaret Low, the president of AtlanticLIVE.