Anyone who has ever read this blog and noticed its upper right hand corner has known that Dr. Koop and I were friends––for more than 20 years.
One of my more amazing experiences with Dr. Koop centers on a walk we took from the White House to my office up Connecticut Avenue. In the length of about a mile, I don't know how many people stopped him and thanked him for his service. Just regular people on the street––many tourists.
One time I was at a Presidential forum on health care in New Hampshire (Dr. Koop was not there) when a guy in the back of the room stood up during the Q&A and said that the whole issue of health care reform only confused him and he didn't know whom to believe. He than asked why we couldn't just have somebody like C. Everett Koop study the issue and tell us what the answer was.
Dr. Koop was not a team player. For me, what made Dr. Koop special were his moral compass and his commitment to just telling people what he saw as the truth.
At a time when "spinning" the facts and being sure to say what your political party––or company, or special interest group––expects you to say is standard operating procedure, it amazes me that politicians and other leaders don't seem to understand why Dr. Koop was so respected.
It never occurred to Dr. Koop that speaking truth could be offensive––or even politically risky. He never saw the need to spin it. He never saw the need to sugar coat anything––including the time he sent a letter to every household detailing how the AIDS virus was transmitted.
I tried to get up to Dartmouth at least once a year to sit with him. The last time, as I did in those last visits, I made sure to tell him why I so respected him.
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