On May 16, 2017, former Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy addressed the Commonwealth Club of California to discuss a wide range of topics.
At about the halfway mark of his speech he talked about science being under threat. His comments there seemed to me to be applicable to the issues of tolerance and respect for all peoples. I have transcribed some of his remarks below:
Well, science is under threat. And I would say more broadly that truth is under threat. And if we ask the question “Why?” we can come up with any number of reasons, but I would rather focus on the solution, and the solution lies with each of us. It depends on what we choose to speak up about. It depends on what we choose to share with others. And too often, in the face of misunderstanding and misinformation and myths, too many people remain silent, even though they know better.
Now, why do they do this? Well, they do it often because they want to not engage in controversy. They don’t want to make someone else upset. But this is a time more than ever for us, more than ever, it’s important for us to speak up for the truth and for science. …
And how do we do that? Well, we do that by talking to the people in our lives and making sure they have the right information.
(Dr. Murtha talked about the measles epidemic in Minnesota and how misinformation fed into that event.)
This is why it’s important to us to know that we need to be soldiers in the war against misinformation. Each and every one of us.
When I was Surgeon General, part of my responsibility was to get information to the public. But I knew very well that there were many circumstances where the most effective messenger was not necessarily me, but sometimes a person’s best friend, or their mother, or their father. Or their wife or husband. And sometimes, their kids.
And so each of us is someone’s friend, son or daughter …. And you have the ability to educate and inform them. And that’s what we have to do. We all have to be soldiers, fighting for truth in this day and age. Because what we’re battling against is a wave of misinformation. And it’s not always malicious. But it spreads often quite easily, like on the internet. And that which alarms people, tends to spread the fastest.
And so, yes, we do have a situation where science and truth have been challenged. But we will only overcome that if we each of us sees in our own roles and our own lives, a responsibility to stand up for and defend the truth, regardless of where the misinformation is coming from. Regardless of whether it’s coming from our bosses, if it’s coming from high governmental officials, whether it’s coming from other prominent people in our community. We have to stand up and defend the truth and speak up for reason. Because when we stop doing that is when we abdicate our society. It’s when we give in to forces that can ultimately lead us into darkness. And I’m not prepared to do that because my parents came to this country 40 years ago because they saw a lot of light. And I want to make sure that my son grows up in a country that also has a lot of light.
 All errors in the transcript are mine alone, and I know there are some. I trust they have not changed Dr. Murthy’s message in any significant way.
 The audio version of this entire presentation can be found at https://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/06/02/dr-vivek-murthy-on-emotional-health . For a video version, check https://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/video/one-nation-under-stress-how-social-connection-can-heal-us