Using Music to Heal the World
(This op-ed was published in the Wilsonville Spokesman on July 19, 2017)
Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, David Sanborn, Dinah Shore, James DePriest, Judy Collins and Itzhak Perlman: what do all of these people have in common? Yes, they are all wonderful singers and musicians. But did you know that they also share something else? All had polio in their youth.
While polio seems very distant from our lives here in Wilsonville, it wasn’t so long ago that it was a dark specter that appeared every summer. The disease defied the happiness of long summer days swimming, picking berries, playing baseball and simply being a kid. Could it reappear in the U.S? In our community? Of course it could. Just as Zika, H1N1, Ebola, and other global contagions have come, so could polio again, which is really only a plane ride away.
Polio was deemed eradicated in the U.S. in 1979. Ten years after that polio cases still totaled 350,000 worldwide. But by 2013, global polio numbers were down to just over 400 cases, thanks to major efforts by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, and generous foundations, including Bill Gates. And today? We’re down to seven cases this year in two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are more than 99 percent of the way there, and we did it in less than 40 years. Without eradication, experts predict polio will rise again quickly, with as many as 200,000 new cases a year over the next 10 years.
Most at risk of getting polio are the most innocent: children under the age of 5. While there is no cure for this devastating disease, there is a vaccine which prevents polio. And if you attended a Wilsonville Rotary Summer Concert in the past and put money in the End Polio Now buckets, then you have probably paid for a vaccine that may have saved a child’s life or prevented untold pain and suffering.
With the recently announced extension of the two-for-one match by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary’s ambitious goal this summer of collecting $12,000 over the four concerts would be enough to vaccinate more than 36,000 children with the Gates’ match. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Wilsonville residents donated enough to impact that many children’s lives?
It seems fitting to share music together, to dance together, to watch our children splash together in the fountain in Town Center Park as we celebrate our community and how powerful we can be when we join together in common cause. Whether you can give $1 or $20, your donations really mean something at our free, annual Rotary Summer Concerts. We can’t wait to share all four of these special evenings with you this summer. Thank you for being a part of this great community.
Tim Crowley is the president of the Rotary Club of Wilsonville. He lives in Wilsonville and is the owner of Crowley Landscape Management, Inc.