Southwick Lecture by Senator Mitchell

Southwick Lecture by Senator Mitchell

Former United States Senator George Mitchell believes Americans need to undertake a serious, informed, national discussion and debate about health care. Mitchell spoke in April at the inaugural symposium of the new University of Michigan Center for Law, Ethics, and Health, directed by SPH Professor Peter Jacobson. Drawing on his much-publicized experience mediating peace agreements in Ireland and the Middle East, Mitchell outlined specific steps that Americans—and in particular lawyers and doctors, who are often cast as antagonists in the health care debate—can take to create a nationwide system of affordable, accessible health care.

To view the address in its entirety and to hear the ensuing panel discussion, visit

An excerpt from Mitchell’s speech, the inaugural Arthur F. Southwick Lecture, follows below:

“If this Center [for Law, Ethics, and Health] does nothing more than generate a debate . . . then I think we will be well served. Because in a land in which we prize and value the right of free speech and the opportunity to disagree, perhaps there’s nothing that gets more agreement than the statement that our health care system needs fixing. We are fortunate to be Americans, the most just, the most open, the most free society in all of human history—imperfect, as are all human efforts, but marked, indeed distinguished, by a constant desire to right the wrongs of the past, to improve the well-being of all of our citizens. The United States is, in my judgement, the first true meritocracy in all of human history, a place where we at least aspire to, and to a large extent achieve, a society in which every person can rise as high and as far as willingness to work, talent, initiative, willingness to take risks will take them. And yet it is a society which paradoxically is plagued by unequal access . . . to the most basic need of the human being, that of good health.”

Photo by David Smith

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