New Director's Message: Moments of Lift - and Liftoff - in Family Planning

In his new Director's Message, Gates Institute Director Jose "Oying " Rimon II finds inspiration for the future of family planning in Melinda Gates' new book, The Moment of Lift, and former President Kennedy's determination to send Americans to the moon in the 1960s.

We choose to go to the moon.

President John F. Kennedy Jr. said these words in 1962, to a crowd of 40,000 people gathered at Rice University’s football stadium in Texas. The year before, he had proposed that the United States attempt to send a man to the moon, but the public wasn’t on board. Fifty-eight percent of Americans were opposed to the idea. It must have seemed incredible, an impossibility. But, in a way, that was the point.

As President Kennedy put it, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do … other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.” And, seven years later, we achieved that goal: we sent men to the moon and brought them home again safely.

The family planning community is in a similar situation when it comes to our goal of achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2030. Ensuring that every person in the world has access to contraceptive services, information and supplies — to some, it may feel as likely as sending a man to the moon once did. But, as President Kennedy said, we didn’t choose this goal because it is easy; we chose it because it is hard, because it will require our best efforts, and because we agree it cannot be postponed.

I am not the first to make the connection between family planning and this historic speech. Melinda Gates evoked this same sentiment before she helped launch the London Summit on Family Planning in 2012. She said that she had chosen family planning as her issue for her lifetime because that is what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is all about: confronting challenges that are difficult but bring huge returns on investment — not just in financial terms but in human terms as well. In other words, she had chosen family planning not because it is easy, but because it is difficult, and because she believes that it is critically important. 


In thinking about the field’s next steps, I have found inspiration in Melinda’s powerful new book, The Moment of Lift, which is out today. In it, she shares how, over the last twenty years, she has come to dedicate her life and her philanthropy to alleviating poverty, improving health and lifting up women. “How can we summon a moment of lift for human beings – and especially for women? Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity,” she writes.

So how can we summon moments of lift, as Melinda asks?

Read the full message here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - 08:45