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Spend a life-changing hour with Frances Perkins

March 24, 2020

Topics: Quote of the Day

By Mick Caouette, Filmmaker
South Hill Films

About the Film:

In the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins as the first woman on a presidential cabinet. Against overwhelming odds, she became the driving force behind Social Security, the 40-hour work week, the eight-hour day, minimum wage and unemployment compensation. “Summoned: Frances Perkins and the General Welfare” features compelling interviews with David Brooks, Nancy Pelosi, Amy Klobuchar, Lawrence O’Donnell and others while telling Perkin’s heroic story which explores the history of women in politics, Social Security, our attitudes toward immigration, poverty, Socialism, and the role of government. Without this context our current dialogue is ill-informed and diminished.

“Some of us decided that the purpose and the reason for government should be the improvement of life for all of its people.” – Frances Perkins

This link includes a six minute preview of the film:

“Summoned: Frances Perkins and the General Welfare” (full video – 57 minutes):

Also a DVD can be purchased through PBS:


By Don McCanne, M.D.

These are difficult times. The highly contagious nature and the lethality of Covid-19 has caused many of us to accept the advice and direction of experts in epidemics of infectious diseases to retreat and practice “social distancing.” This should give us time for contemplation and values clarification.

Somewhere in your schedule, or what’s left of it, you should be able to find an hour to sit down and watch this video. I would say that it is an imperative in that it shows how a nation, with the inspiration provided by leaders like Frances Perkins, can address the problems of our times. Although the specific issues are not all the same now as they were then, the general concept is the same: society is not functioning well even though the nation has the ability and resources to do something about it.

How are we not functioning well now? We are facing a pandemic at a time that our government stewards had elected to diminish our public health resources so that we were not adequately prepared for this. We have diverted too much of our very high national health expenditures away from patients and to administrators and passive investors, while leaving too many without access to the health care they need. We have shifted decades of the gains in productivity to the wealthy at the top while leaving workers and their families struggling just to try to make ends meet. We have continued to engage in endless, meaningless wars. We have allowed democracy to deteriorate to the point that our elections all too often no longer represent the will of the people. And the list goes on.

Viewing this will be an hour well spent, but much more important will be the contemplation that follows. That can lead to an epiphany for each of us. Dammit, we can do something about this!

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About the Commentator, Don McCanne

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Don McCanne is a retired family practitioner who dedicated the 2nd phase of his career to speaking and writing extensively on single payer and related issues. He served as Physicians for a National Health Program president in 2002 and 2003, then as Senior Health Policy Fellow. For two decades, Don wrote "Quote of the Day", a daily health policy update which inspired HJM.

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