Courage Lives On…

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Courage Lives On

“Courage, my friends; ‘tis not too late to build a better world.”

Tommy Douglas

On April 5, 2004, The Greatest Canadian was launched by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to determine who was considered to be the greatest Canadian of all time.  No one was surprised when the honour went to Tommy Douglas, a charismatic, outspoken statesman and the “Father of Medicare.”  Born in Scotland in 1904, he immigrated with his family to Canada in 1910, settling in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  A leg injury sustained in Scotland became a medical emergency when a bone marrow infection threatened his life.  His leg would have to be amputated.  His parents had limited resources and could not afford medical treatment.  And then the miracle happened. A well-respected orthopedic surgeon took a special interest in the case.  He agreed to treat Tommy for free if his parents permitted medical students to observe the procedure.  Several operations later, the leg was saved.

Tommy witnessed the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike where police charged strikers with clubs and guns.  He lived through the depression and was deeply disturbed by the poverty that visited a once thriving middle class.  Tommy would become the Premier of the Province of Saskatchewan in 1944.  His party, the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party, was the first democratic socialist government in Canada, and, incidentally, the first for all of North America. In 1950, Premier Tommy Douglas was the first head of any government in Canada to call for a constitutional bill of rights.  No other province supported his call to action. Thirty years later, on April 17, 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was established.

Tommy Douglas’s primary goal was the creation of a universal health care system. The program was launched in Saskatchewan in 1962. He took it to the next level by taking leadership of the federal New Democratic Party.  He saw he dream fulfilled for all of Canada in 1966.

The audacity of one doctor to save a life, planted memories that forged a spirit of courage and determination in a young boy.  The doctor never considered that his act of goodwill would change the direction of an entire nation.

“I felt that no boy should have to depend either for his leg or his life upon the ability of his parents to raise enough money to bring a first-class surgeon to his bedside.”

Tommy Douglas

Post Script – Tommy Douglas is the grandfather of Keifer Sutherland!

 

21 thoughts on “Courage Lives On…

    • There will always be those who have concerns with waiting lists, but I have always found that our Medicare program to be exemplary. There is a great deal of work being down on preventative measures that are more upstream in nature. Exercise, proper diet etc is the key to reducing medical costs.

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  1. Very inspiring. In fact I was in awe watching Michael Moore’s “Sicko” where he highlights health care system in Canada and I faintly remember, he did mention Tommy Douglas.

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    • Yes, he was mentioned in Sicko. Tommy Douglas was fearless – he was a boxer, a minister, an academic, shrewd politician. He met with a great deal of opposition. He always remembered the doctor that saved him.

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      • We need more politicians like him. Every Government should provide free health care and education. On second thoughts food, shelter and clothing too. This world will truly be a happy place to live in, we’d all be pursuing art freely 😀

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      • There is much truth in what you say. Much of our conflict comes from the unequal distribution of resources. Something to think about.

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    • Ah, my favourite character from the Wizard of Oz. I always wanted to give him a hug…

      “Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage!” Cowardly Lion

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    • Yes! Yes! Yes! The extraordinary part of this story was the doctor’s contribution. He saw the need and saved a boy’s life, never thinking beyond the moment. We all want to do something noble, but I believe our best contribution is to be there in the moment and responding to the needs of those around us.

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    • I agree – and the more I dig into Tommy Douglas’s background the more I marvel at his courage and dedication. His journey was not for the fainthearted.

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  2. I have to say sometimes they called him crazy but he sure did a lot of good for its country. What a beautiful post.

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    • There were quite a few people who thought Tommy Douglas had crazy ideas that wouldn’t work because they didn’t fit into the status quo way of thinking. He was just a little bit a head of everyone….

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      • Exactly, that what makes the difference in the world the ones who actually go through with their Ideas are the ones that achieve greatness, even if they called them crazy… but had a little of courage to make something big. Thanks for making me think, I enjoy your posts, I have to say sometimes I wait when I really have time to check them out, some things can not be rush we must absorb…. and think. Thanks for that!

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      • That is the reason why blogs work so well. There are times when I go back three or four times and read a post before responding – as you say, there are some things that cannot be rushed…we are indeed kindred spirits…

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  3. What a great man and patriot, Tommy Douglas. But, even more important the doctor who saved his life–what kindness!

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    • I agree! And if it weren’t for that doctor, Tommy Douglas may have focused his talents and energies elsewhere.

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