Bending the Arc
By Dan Clendenin
Bending the Arc (2017)
If you need a jolt of encouragement, watch this origin story about the three founders of Partners in Health. The title of the documentary comes from a quote by the nineteenth century abolitionist minister Theodore Parker: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.” The story begins in 1983 when Ophelia Dahl (age 18) met Paul Farmer (age 23) in Haiti, where they both followed a passion to serve the poor through health care. When Farmer matriculated at Harvard Medical School in December of 1983, he met Jim Kim, and the three of them started PIH in 1987 with the generosity of the philanthropist Tom White (PIH revenue in 2018 was $148 million). Farmer would always be the front man in this show, winning numerous awards like a MacArthur Genius Grant. He has written a dozen books, most recently a 700-page history of Ebola called Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds (2020). PIH has always been predictably critical of first world, wealthy bureaucracies that made excuses for not helping the poor, so it’s a marvelous irony that in 2012 Kim became president of the World Bank. One of the many lessons Farmer shares is how he gained a “respect for the destructive power of poverty.” For more on this wonderful story see the biography by Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains; The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Change the World (New York: Random House, 2003), 317pp. I watched this movie on Netflix.
Dan Clendenin: email@example.com
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