Dr Larry Brilliant
“It takes all of us to bend the arc of moral Universe towards Justice “ Dr Larry Brilliant.
May 5, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan, a physician, an epidemiologist, a technologist, a writer and social helper Larry (Lawrence) Brilliant who is in fact brilliant was born. At the age of 19, Larry was a victim of depression. The thought of losing his father to cancer engulfed him.
One fine day he gathered the courage and went to listen to a preacher, Martin Luther King Jr. who was talking about hope, justice and truth. There were only 60 instead of the 3000 people who were expected for the talk. A discussion which was supposed to last for an hour lasted for six hours. It also had a magical effect on Larry. The session boosted his morale and made him feel motivated and active.
“[King] famously talked about the arc of the moral universe that would bend towards justice, but it wouldn’t bend on its own. You have to jump up, drag it, twist it, pull it down towards justice. You have to influence that arc,” Brilliant said.
Now were the times of transformation for Larry who gathering all his inspiration along started marching in Civil rallies. In 1969, a group of Native Americans from many different tribes, calling themselves Indians of All Tribes, occupied the Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. During this rally, a pregnant woman went into labour. A call was made for a doctor to help deliver the baby. Larry was one among the group to lend offer help.
With an MPH degree from the University of Michigan and an MD, his support to the tribes made him an eye candy for Media and opportunities came pouring in. He was offered a role of a doctor in the Woodstock Nation sequel- Medicine Ball Caravan. Some part the film was shot in India. He along with his friends took a bus to drive around Europe and eventually ended up helping victims of 1970 Bhola cyclone in Bangladesh.
Larry came in contact with a sage in the Himalayas under whom he studied for several years. An extended period of study and guidance by the sage directed him to help the world, and specifically to help eradicate smallpox. Following this, he joined the WHO as a medical officer in 1980 in the smallpox eradication program after being rejected 13 times. There were people from all races and countries involved in the program numbered 170.
“In the middle of the Cold War, Russians and Americans worked together to eradicate smallpox, and the people sitting around the table were from every race, every religion, every language you could think of,” Brilliant said.
And in 1975 , Larry saw the last case of smallpox of a girl named Rahima Banu. This was just a start and the society was to witness more from medical and thoughtful prodigy. In 1978, Larry founded Seva, giving eyesight to around 3 million people and also helped set up Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India. He spent half the year volunteering in Sri Lanka for tsunami victims and simultaneously working with WHO organisation in India to eradicate polio in 2005. In 2006, he became Executive Director of Google.org and held the position till 2009, after which he joined the Skoll foundation. He was also awarded the TED prize in 2006.
“I used to tell my students when I was a professor, always expect the imponderabilia. That’s a made-up word,” Brilliant said. “It’s a little creature that comes upon you when you least expect it and whispers in your ear something you haven’t thought of. Always expect that little, unexpected twist. Always be willing to listen.”
With his efforts to completely eliminate global pandemics, Dr Brilliant is definitely humanity’s hero. He says that we have to make a conscious effort to twist and bend the arc because it won’t bend on its own.
From being a patient of depression to becoming the knight in the shining armour for humanity, Dr Larry Brilliant has made miraculous contributions and bent the arc of history towards justice and achieved the goal of ensuring advancements in public health.