We’ve all seen it… the effect of silence. While it may be perceived as equipoise, lack of an opinion, or disengagement, the effect of silence has deafening effects. Policies that affect all of us, and our patients, are made every day by leaders who may be unaware (or ignorant) of their effect on the masses. Whether in the political realm or at our individual institutions, advocacy is needed.
Through the Women’s March and the March for Science, thousands of people spoke up about the things that matter to them—and in democracies, where politicians should ultimately be responsible to the people they represent, those voices were made loud and clear. Many members of ASCO went to the U.S. Capitol earlier this month to let their political representatives in Washington know how changes to health care coverage will affect their practice and their patients, and how federal funding for research is critical to ensuring the health of our nation.
If going to Washington or joining a march isn’t your thing, picking up the phone or sending an email can ensure that your voice is heard. And for those who say, “Why bother? I’m just one voice,” remember that if apathy is prevalent, the message this sends is that these issues are unimportant. Your voice counts.
Last year, I completed the Public Voices Fellowship through the OpEd Project, a mission-driven organization whose aim is to encourage diverse opinions to be heard. If you do not want to politically engage, write an op-ed to your local paper, any number of national outlets, or even post your thoughts here on ASCO Connection! Ideas, thoughts, opinions all count—but when we are silent, they are not counted.
For those inclined towards social media, take a cue from our President, and tweet! And if you’re thinking that your single tweet cannot possibly have an effect, just look at what happened with movements like #BringBackOurGirls, #ILookLikeASurgeon, and #NYerORCoverChallenge. Thousands of people were brought together in national and international movements to voice their opinions on what matters to them.
The world is shrinking, and as globalization takes hold and technology permits more rapid and widespread communication, what we do and say can have more impact than ever before, but only if we have the courage and the initiative to make our voices heard. As I learned in the OpEd Project, if you say things of consequence, there may be consequences; but the alternative is to be inconsequential… and who would want that?! Particularly in these tumultuous times for health care and research, we need to speak up!