I can describe our founder Danny Thomas’ clear-eyed, courageous vision in four words that seem particularly relevant today.
Starting in the 1950s, our remarkable founder set us on a course to have a profound impact on children everywhere, first by helping increase U.S. survival rates from 20 percent to 80 percent for childhood cancer, a disease once thought incurable and, now, working to do the same around the world in partnership with other healthcare organizations.
He wasn’t a highly educated man – just a 10th grade education – but he was guided by a set of nonnegotiable values; those core four words.
Compassion. He couldn’t abide the idea of kids with cancer being left to die.
Unity. He gathered his friends first, then millions of you to demonstrate the power of pursuing a common goal.
Equality. He couldn’t accept sick children not getting proper care because of the color of their skin or their ability to pay. At St. Jude, he changed that.
Inclusion. And at St. Jude, opened in 1962 in the segregated South in Memphis, Tenn., he put people of all backgrounds together: patients, families and staff, particularly black and white doctors and nurses, side-by-side and sharing the same cafeteria and restrooms, all working to save the children of the world.
This amazing man proved there is nearly immeasurable strength in clear-eyed purpose combined with unwavering courage. They’re combustible.
So today, at ALSAC and St. Jude – nearly three decades after Danny Thomas’ death – his purpose remains our purpose, the central motivating aim that guides our decisions and, God willing, influences our day-to-day actions that drive change for children everywhere.
It’s always been clear Danny made an unbreakable compact with patients, families, staff and donors, but with each day I better understand the foresight of his vision and revere the power of his actions.
If he could live his values and courageously reject architectural norms at the time that included separate restrooms for black and white employees of his new research hospital because, well, that was just an accepted practice of the time…
If he could live his values and courageously refuse to do business with segregated Memphis restaurants and hotels at the time, demanding they integrate…
Surely, we can continue to advance his work with the same sense of urgency, compassion, unity, equality and inclusion that have produced such remarkable results in the face of such overwhelming odds. Because his purpose – and now, our purpose – is so far from being achieved.
But, together, we can do this. We can achieve his bold vision: that NO CHILD anywhere die in the dawn of life.
We are so blessed, and grateful, you’re on this journey with us. Your generosity makes it possible. Thank you.
Richard C. Shadyac Jr. is President and CEO of American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.