Achieving Global Health Equity in a Generation: A Roadmap Forward with Larry Summers and Julio Frenk

Recorded: Tuesday, October 14, 2014

With the deepening global health crisis in West Africa, it has become ever more apparent, as FDR predicted in 1945, “that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations, far away.” Even more specifically, we have been reminded that the health of America is directly linked to the health of the world. On October 14th 2014, Charles W. Eliot University Professor of Economics Larry Summers and Julio Frenk, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, sat down to discuss a way forward, based on a report published last fall in The Lancet: Global Health 2035. In it, Larry Summers and 23 renowned economists and health experts have proposed that if we make the right investments in the health sector today, the globe could achieve universally low rates of infectious, maternal and child deaths by 2035. In other words, we could shift directions to achieve a “grand convergence” in global health within just one generation.

Join us for this fascinating discussion as Professors Summer and Frenk explore the practicalities of global health equity, followed by questions from the audience. The discussion also features a short video update on the Ebola situation from Dr. Paul Farmer, who was in Liberia to help battle the crisis.

About the Speakers:

Lawrence H. Summers is the Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus of Harvard University. During the past two decades, he has served in a series of senior policy positions in Washington, D.C., including the 71st Secretary of the Treasury for President Clinton, Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama and Vice President of Development Economics and Chief Economist of the World Bank. He received a bachelor of science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975 and was awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1982. In 1983, he became one of the youngest individuals in recent history to be named as a tenured member of the Harvard University faculty. In 1987, Mr. Summers became the first social scientist ever to receive the annual Alan T. Waterman Award of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and in 1993 he was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, given every two years to the outstanding American economist under the age of 40. He is currently the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University and the Weil Director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government at Harvard’s Kennedy School.


Since January 2009, Dr. Julio Frenk is Dean of the Faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health and T & G Angelopoulos Professor of Public Health and International Development, a joint appointment with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Dr. Frenk served as the Minister of Health of Mexico from 2000 to 2006. He pursued an ambitious agenda to reform the nation’s health system, with an emphasis on redressing social inequality. He is perhaps best known for his work in introducing a program of comprehensive national health insurance, known as Seguro Popular, which expanded access to health care for tens of millions of previously uninsured Mexicans.

Dr. Frenk was the founding director-general of the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, one of the leading institutions of health education and research in the developing world. In 1998, Dr. Frenk joined the World Health Organization (WHO) as executive director in charge of Evidence and Information for Policy, WHO’s first-ever unit explicitly charged with developing a scientific foundation for health policy to achieve better outcomes.

Most recently, he served as a senior fellow in the global health program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and as president of the Carso Health Institute in Mexico City. He is the founding chair of the board of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. He also co-chaired the Commission on the Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century, which published its influential report in the leading journal The Lancet in 2010, triggering a large number of follow-up initiatives throughout the world.

Here’s A Health to King Charles

Throughout the course of restoring the FDR Suite, I’ve been continually surprised and delighted to find little gateways back in time. Here’s another one. Last year, my dear friend Abbot Peterson ’58 died. Recently, his widow Barbara – another dear friend – was cleaning out some files and came across an old 78 RPM vinyl record. Labelled “Alvin V. Laird sings to the class of 1904,″ it had been mailed in 1950 to Abbot’s father, Abbot Peterson II, a member of FDR’s class. (As was Mr. Laird.)

The 78 contained two songs: “A Health to King Charles” and “Dolores.“ Both were hugely popular in their day — “Dolores” was a hit song from the 1899 London musical comedy “Floradora,” which ultimately moved to Broadway in 1900 and played for more than 500 performances. Most of the class of 1904 would have been familar with the tune. “King Charles” was a very widely sung drinking ditty, which would also have been immediately recognized by FDR and Lathrop. The song is based on a poem by Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) and perfectly embodies the Victorian romantic longing for causes lost:

BRING the bowl which you boast
Fill it up to the brim;
’Tis to him we love most,
And to all who love him.
Brave gallants, stand up,
And avaunt ye, base carles!

Were there death in the cup,
Here’s a health to King Charles.

THOUGH he wanders through dangers,
Unaided, unknown,
Dependent on strangers,
Estranged from his own;
Though ’tis under our breath,
Amidst forfeits and perils,
Here’s to honor and faith,
And a health to King Charles!

LET such honors abound
As the time can afford,
The knee on the ground,
And the hand on the sword;
But the time shall come round
When, ’mid Lords, Dukes, and Earls,
The loud trumpet shall sound,
Here’s a health to King Charles!


So here, after tracking down someone who still had the means to play and digitize a 78 (!!!), for the first time in over a century, may I present to you: “Here’s A Health to King Charles.”

This song, by the way, is part of an ongoing process to make a CD of “The Music of FDR’s Harvard” that will contain many of these wonderful old melodies well overdue for a comeback. As always, your help in making this and our other work possible is greatly appreciated.

The View from Apthorp: Global Citizenship and the Environment

This coming January 21-24, Adams House will again sponsor its own WinterSession programming. When instituted a few years back, WinterSession was specifically intended to allow students to explore subjects and themes that they would not otherwise have time to pursue during their normal course of studies. This year our program is entitled 2035: A Guide to Living on An Altered Planet, and will explore how changes in climate, energy, and resources will affect the lives of current students 20 years hence. Speakers will include Arctic Expert Professor Jim McCarthy; Zip-Car Founder, Robin Chase; Brian Sweat, Head of Environmental Planning for the City of Boston; and Bruce Oreck, the US Ambassador to Finland, who’s made it his personal mission to inform and engage the public on environmental issues.

The final day, Saturday the 24th — which will be open to our alumni — will be dedicated to a single topic, The Sustainability Myth. A distinguished panel of experts from science, industry and politics will lead a discussion on the directions of change that are needed to avert environmental disaster.

We’ll of course be in touch with more details as the event draws closer, but in the meantime, Sean and I hope to see many of you back at Adams for Harvard Yale, 3:30 to 6:00 PM on the 22rd.

Go Harvard!

Judy and Sean

Letter from Cambridge: Sending the Elevator Back Down

The other day while randomly flicking through channels, I caught a glimpse of an interview with Kevin Spacey. He’d been asked a question about why he spends so much free time working with young actors. His answer was remarkable. Quoting mentor Jack Lemmon ’47, Spacey said: “I believe that if you have been successful in the business you wanted to be successful in, and if you have achieved a lot of the dreams you’ve dreamed… it’s your obligation… to send the elevator back down.”

Sending the elevator back down.

For years, I’ve been looking for a simple way to describe the work we do at the Foundation. It’s various and variable, covering fields as diverse as historic preservation, educational programming, scholarships, and non-partisan research to acquaint our students (and alumni) with the daunting challenges we face as a College, a nation and a globe to successfully transit the 21st century. But I couldn’t have found a better phrase than this: Sending the elevator back down.

That’s what we do. Plain and simple. We — in this case, I, a dedicated group of alumni, our House Masters, our affiliated faculty, you, our alumni supporters — we all attempt to take some of the incredible good fortune we’ve experienced and pass that forward. Whether that’s through exploring the path to global health equity with Larry Summers and Dean Julio Frenk, gathering our students fireside in the Suite to talk openly and intimately with world leaders, preserving our memories in the Gold Coaster, or working to extend the history and legacy of FDR at Harvard, we strive to make fruitful the fields of our future.

But to continue, we need your help. Over the last year, we have nearly doubled our historic preservation, educational programming, and scholarships due to exceptional demand. Requests to tour the Suite now come almost weekly; our student seminars have expanded in number from one to twelve; our Global Fellowship summer study grants from one to three. Yet individual contributions supporting these efforts have fallen sharply. A common perception is that we receive substantial funds from the University or from major corporate sponsors. We don’t. We do all this solely through the contributions of dedicated volunteers and the generosity of people like you.

Now, I’d like to ask you, fellow Adamsians, to consider helping our efforts. (Or, if you already have in the past, to do so again.) There are many easy ways to do this, from sustaining monthly gifts via credit card, to direct donation of money, of airline frequent flyer miles, of stocks, bonds, or securities. We’re a registered 501(c)3, and for US residents, your contributions are tax deductible.

I know you receive appeals from many quarters. But we like to think that this very special place, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation, nestled in the best of all the houses, Adams, in the bosom of the world’s top university, Harvard, is in a unique position to allow us to shape the talent of the future.

Please help us make sure the next elevator up is packed to capacity.

Sophomore Profile: Tez Clark ’17

Tell me a little about yourself, your parents, where you were born, where you went to school.

I was born in Washington, D.C., but moved to Tokyo when I was four. My mum is Japanese, from Tokyo, which is pretty rare. Unlike many Japanese families, we don’t have an inaka, or rural hometown. I’m just several generations of Tokyoite. 

My father’s from Lynn, MA. My parents met through debate: my father is a fairly obvious Japanophile and travelled to Tokyo after finishing college in order to teach English – and presumably to meet women. He ended up helping out with the debate team at my mum’s university, and that’s how they met. From my understanding, their courtship was romantic and utterly impractical. My father went back to America to attend law school and my mother stayed in Tokyo, so it was very long-distance. I’ve made it quite clear to both my parents that I find their behavior to be highly illogical. 

For primary school, I attended an all-girls’ Catholic school in Tokyo, near where the 1964 Olympics were held. The school was insular and quite conservative, but I think it prepared me academically for high school at Phillips Exeter Academy. Exeter was academically decent—I don’t think all the faculty live up to the school’s reputation—but it’s not the kind of place I would recommend to anyone I love. 

So you essentially have feet in two worlds, both ethnically and culturally. What was that like?

I think the “two-worlds” dichotomy was something that I didn’t notice until coming to America to study. Part of that, I think, is just a function of aging and maturation. When I was in middle school, my primary concern wasn’t race or social issues. 

That said, there are certain incidents in my childhood that stand out—incidents that made it clear that I was different and “foreign,” if you will. For example, when I was in first grade I was bullied pretty seriously for being half white. I was in a Japanese public school and I was one of two non-Japanese students in attendance. I was terrified in a way that I’ve never been since, and didn’t go to school for months because I was afraid of being punched in the school corridors. I used to want pretty seriously to dye my hair black and get eye surgery and really do anything to erase my “western” features. 

Of course, the interesting thing is that by my teenage years, my “blended” features have become the ideal for many in Asia. This has done absolute wonders for my ego! No—but in all seriousness, this fetishization is still problematic; it continues to mark certain people as exotic (different, really) because of their race.

What’s your takeaway from Japanese culture?

It’s hard to say, because Japanese culture is my culture. This is something that seems to confuse my white relatives—they often ask me if I’m not “disrespecting” my American heritage. The frustrating thing is that their goals for me (finding a job and settling down in America) clearly prefer an “American” life—whatever that means—over a Japanese one. 

OK. Fair enough. What’s your takeaway from American culture, then?

When I first came to America, I remember being very amused about white guilt and the way race was discussed in America. When I was in Tokyo, my biracial identity was never questioned because I lived in a community populated by biracials. Everyone I knew was either half-Asian or had spent significant time away from their parents’ home country. It was only after I moved to America that people began to ask me about race and my experience with race. 

I’ve lived in America for four years now, and I’ve become less amused and more inspired. 

Living here has forced me to think more about race and the hierarchies that develop around skin color. In Japan, race was never a topic, in part because there wasn’t much racial diversity. So, yes we don’t have the KKK or its equivalents, but that’s really not saying much when about 95% of the population is ethnic Japanese.  Racial issues don’t come to the fore because racial conflict is genuinely not as visible. Of course, hidden isn’t synonymous with non-existent. Being a foreigner, specifically a white foreigner, lets you get away with a lot. Tokyo is home to a lot of multinational companies, which are all run by white foreigners who expect their Japanese business contacts to speak to them in fluent English. For non-white foreigners (mostly Philippines and Africans), there is more stigma and quite a few slurs. 

You told me earlier that you thought Harvard wasn’t sufficiently diverse, and you noticed I looked somewhat surprised, as the current student body, to these older eyes, seems incredibly varied. Expand a little on that. 

Obviously, the student body at Harvard looks very different now than it did a couple of decades ago. That said, I think there’s a lot to improve upon in terms of diversity. 

For example, I write for the Crimson’s editorial board. I’m one of four girls who regularly attends meetings, and I would say that the board in general skews very much toward white, upper-middle class young men. There are one and a half Asians (counting me) and one student is a quarter black—that’s it. I think it’s easy to look at those numbers and say that it’s a big jump from the 1980s, and no one’s denying that. But I think that we run the risk of being very self-congratulatory at the expense of progress. It’s not as if by meeting a certain quota of students of color, we now live in a post-racial Harvard. 

Of course, although I am loath to say it, Harvard isn’t the be-all, end-all of the public forum. These issues—of race and class, specifically—are pervasive and Harvard, although it is wonderful, cannot hope to correct them on its own. I remember thinking it was really gauche when Joe Biden came to the Institute of Politics earlier this year and said that we should all be thankful for how far we’ve come in terms of racial equality, and to focus more on the positive developments in America since the 1950s. That is very, very easy to say when you’re an educated white man. It was a politically idiotic thing to say after the slaughter of young black men that we’ve seen this summer. 

You took former Master Bob Kiely’s freshman seminar, did you not? What was that like?

I was originally drawn to the course as an artist. I have a minor (read: major) obsession with paper as a material. I don’t know if this can be explained to non-artists, as pretentious as that sounds. Japanese drawing practice is very different from American practice, which is very different from Italian practice—which is interesting to me because I have family in all three places. My goal upon entering Harvard was to do my due diligence at the whole liberal-arts thing, and then move into practice and an MFA.

Anyway, I realized during Bob Kiely’s seminar that I was more interested in studying philosophy. The writers we discussed in the seminar were trying to either explain or discover theological pathways through their artistic media, and I had the very mundane realization that I could do the same with philosophy. I was particularly intrigued by the way writers use symbols and allegories to stand in for other (usually unnamed) concepts. Most philosophy of language (from Augustine up until contemporary philosophers in our department) focuses on written or verbal symbols, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t do something conceptually similar with, say, the works of Bruegel. 

This shift into philosophy wasn’t much of a stretch; most of my favorite artists have also been students of philosophy in one way or another. Take Robert Motherwell, whom I think is brilliant—he got his Ph.D. in philosophy here at Harvard. I remember talking to Warren Goldfarb, the Head Tutor of the department, one time and he casually just name dropped Motherwell and Susan Sontag. 

So I got into philosophy because of art, but the philosophy I was interested in had very little to do with aesthetics or beauty, which are the traditional realms of artistic thought. 

Fascinating. So the seminar shifted your entire Harvard track. I’ll honestly admit to you that I’ve never fully understood what one studied when one studied philosophy. Can you simplify the field for us laymen?

It’s hard to say. I think a lot of people associate philosophy with just metaphysics, which I find personally quite inappropriate. Philosophy is so much broader than that—for example, there’s a course on Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics that I’m interested in taking next year. I also think people make the mistake of associating philosophy with pretension and a sense of destructive post-modern thought: the “philosophical” characters in pop narratives are the obnoxious white men in the corners asking “Why?” to everything without providing any ideas of their own. 

I love philosophy because I personally feel very stupid when I do it, and I think anyone who is doing it properly shares that feeling. It’s a way of thinking critically that is not properly taught in schools. We expect kids to do things fast: how much arithmetic can you do in a minute, how quickly can you demonstrate reading comprehension on a standardized test. Philosophical thinking goes against that: it forces us to think very slowly about everything. 

Adamsian Tez Clark ’17 writes a regular column in the Crimson. Eds.

Alumni Profile: Doug Carver, ’59

A few weeks back we sat down with Doug, via transatlantic cable, to chat a bit about his Adams experience, life as an expat in France, and, on the centennial of the Great War, his new edition of The Harvard Volunteers in World War I. Eds.

So Doug, tell me a little bit about how you wound up a bright shiny sophomore at Adams House in the fall of 1956.

Doug Carver

I had planned to go to Annapolis, the Naval Academy. But during my senior year in high school, my advisor recommended choosing a college according to the quality of the teaching staff, the library, and the student body. In my mind, Harvard came out number one in all three categories. So that was the only college I applied to. I was either totally without a clue or incredibly arrogant to have in this manner put all my eggs in one basket.

I chose Adams House, in my day known as the “Bohemian House,” because my two roommates wanted to go there for the swimming pool and the pool hall. For my part, I liked the atmosphere and the proximity to the Yard, the Square, and Widener.

What was your most memorable experience there?

There were many, of course. The House system was and is a great way of humanizing what might have been a rootless existence. The good times always began in the dining hall. The circle of friends was a constant during the three years in Adams.

I guess the experience I might remember the most is the one that got me on probation for a semester. On a balmy spring evening I was sitting on the fire escape balcony of our room in B-32 bombing cars driving up Plympton Street with balloons filled with water. The sound on the hoods when they landed was impressive, and the frustration of the drivers who stopped to curse their unseen aggressor was uproarious. Until one of my balloons broke my victim’s windshield. I double-timed down to try to limit the damages, but not before the senior tutor had been brought on to the scene. A very embarrassing last outbreak of juvenile high spirits. 

Then, after Harvard, off to the military?

I did my honors thesis on Poland’s Western Territories. I could just as well have done it on Germany’s Eastern Territories. The geography was exactly the same, but the points of view diametrically opposed. My field was Communist Affairs, and my Thesis Advisor was Zbigniew Brzezinki. He was great, and the experience led to a fantastic summer after graduation as a guest of  the University of Wroclaw (formerly Breslau). But, in terms of enriching my life, I would have done better to study fine arts and music.

I spent two years as a Lieutenant in the marine corps with the highlight being a six month “good will” cruise to South America, Africa, and Spain. My period in the Marine Corps was as formative as my four years at Harvard, particularly with regard to my subsequent business activities. What I learned there and applied in the years that followed was the dictum, “Look out for your men, and they’ll look out for you.”

My professional career was a bit of smorgasbord. Banking in New York, Switzerland and Belgium, management consulting in France, Germany, Japan, and the United States, project development with a French heavy construction firm in many spots around the world, management of the French subsidiary of a German pharmaceutical packaging manufacturer, and my own consulting firm for many years while simultaneously teaching in a French business school.

You currently live in France, and have for how many years now, have you not?

Yes, I arrived in 1969 and have gone native to the point of becoming a French citizen (though without abandoning my American passport).

I’m always fascinated to learn how people born in the US decide to live long-term abroad. What motivated you to make such a shift?

I come from a family whose sole ‘foreign’ experience was an occasional trip to Canada. We were brought up to speak ‘the King’s English’ (as my properly Bostonian mother would describe it), and none of us had more knowledge of a foreign language than what was taught at the high school level.

During my Marine Corps cruise, that high school French made me the resident linguist aboard ship, so I was called upon to act as Shore Duty Officer in all the French-speaking ports we put into in Africa. The experience was exhilarating, and I swore that when I went back to school, I was going to learn French properly. Which I did by spending a year at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris. In the process I met a German whom I subsequently married (in Appleton Chapel), and we both felt that Europe was the place we wanted to be. So after finishing up my graduate studies at Boston University, I chose a profession most likely to get me back there. And once there, when I received an offer from McKinsey to come to France, I didn’t hesitate.

But though France is where I have lived for over forty years, I regard Europe as my home. Having worked for a German company and having a summer residence in Spain, I have picked up those languages. The result allows me the immeasurable pleasure of  being a foreigner in many lands but comfortable in most.

Let’s talk about the book you’ve edited and re-published, The Harvard Volunteers in World War I. What motivated you to delve into what is, after all, a fairly obscure topic?

The original book, entitled The Harvard Volunteers in Europe, published in 1916, is a collection of letters written by Harvard men serving the Allies in a variety of capacities. My sister-in-law found it in a local book sale and sent it to me in 2012 thinking I might be interested. Indeed I was, for these were voices that brought vividly to life what for me had been dry history. After reading it, I realized the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War would soon be upon us and this might offer a splendid occasion for the book’s re-edition.

As I began talking with friends in the States about the idea, I was surprised to find that to a certain degree World War I in American memory is an orphan war, lost as it is between the searing experience of our Civil War and the heroic national epic of World War II. Which is why, I guess, you might consider the subject “obscure.” This is far from the case in Europe where World War I continues to haunt national memories just as memorials to the millions who died occupy a place of honor in every town throughout the continent.

So I decided that the project should take on a European accent and to this end invited the French and UK club Presidents to ‘sponsor’ the book. Which they did with alacrity, wishing to recognize the sacrifices of their host countries. The proceeds, of course, would go to various Harvard scholarship funds.

Once we got working on the re-edition, we realized that, before the passage of time would relegate their memory to the anonymity of dusty historical archives, here was perhaps the last chance to remember those members of the Harvard community who had died in the war.

By the time we finished, in addition to re-editing the original text, we had enlisted Professor Charles Maier, Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History, to write a thought piece on how the sacrifice of young Harvard citizens a hundred years ago might be viewed today, we had included a representative collection of photos of some of those citizens, we added a moving poem written by one of the most famous of the fallen, Alan Seeger, and we put together a detailed listing of all 386 Harvard men and women victims of the war including their school, class, rank, unit, date, place and cause of death, and any honors they may have been awarded. And, on the basis of this information, we were able to develop an intriguing vision of World War I as experienced by Harvard’s sons and daughters.

By and large, these young Harvardians went off to fight, what was at the time, a foreign war. Of course, some were nationals of the countries involved, but mostly, they were Americans. What was their motivation?

That’s a question which Professor Maier tries to answer in his contribution. There were certainly a variety of reasons: idealism, youthful quest for adventure, emulation of friends who had already volunteered. I might add a question of my own to which I have never found a satisfying answer: why Harvard? Harvard was the American university most involved, and from the beginning, in the war: by the number of its participating students and alumni, by the number of their deaths, and by Harvard’s institutional presence (the American Hospital and the ambulance corps were very much beholden to Harvard’s contributions).

Some of these tales are quite poignant. Which resonates with you most? 

In addition to the letters which provide a fascinating insight into the experiences of the writers and their modes of thinking, I spent quite a bit of time looking up many of the names of the dead on the Internet to find more of their stories. I found so many, and so many worthy of retelling, that I wonder whether there is not matter there for another book or two.

Perhaps the one which caught my attention more than any other was that of Jack Wright, a young man who left Harvard during hisfFreshman year to join the fledgling French air force and who lost his life in an accident while training to fly. Because he was at Harvard for only a few months, his name does not figure in the Memorial Church listing. We only know of him today because his memory was enshrined by his mother who undertook to publish privately his correspondence from the time he left Harvard until he died. His was not a glorious death nor a death in combat, but this simple act of love for a son very much brings home to me the enduring sorrow caused by that “Great” War.