I write to you today for the first time as your AAP president. I had hoped to write and share my vision for what 2021 will look like for the Academy, its members and for children, and my enthusiasm for leading us forward in this important charge. However, the events that transpired yesterday in Washington DC, the city where I live, work, and raise my children, compel me to write a different inaugural message.
Yesterday, institutions of our democracy on Capitol Hill — where so many pediatricians have advocated for children — were attacked and vandalized. Members of Congress and staff we’ve met with were forced to hunker down in barricaded rooms. As pediatricians, citizens and on behalf of the AAP, we condemn these actions.
All of this took place against the backdrop of a relentless global pandemic that has challenged and tested us like nothing we’ve ever seen before in our careers. Yesterday saw the highest daily number of COVID-19 deaths thus far in the pandemic. Vaccine distribution has started but has been frustratingly inconsistent. It was also a painful reminder of the systemic racism and injustice that persist in our nation. Much work lies ahead. Many of us are wondering how to face it.
We show up. And we speak up. That’s what pediatricians do.
So, while today feels difficult, I want to remind you that soon the day will come when we will all be together again speaking up for children in the halls of Congress. In person. Just like we were in this photo from a recent AAP Advocacy Conference. Our federal government buildings were meant to serve this purpose, and pediatricians were meant to show up and speak up for children. And so, we will.
That may look different this year, but whether on screens or in person, our voices are powerful, effective and needed now more than ever. As I sat with my children yesterday, while indoors under an emergency curfew order and assuring them of their safety, we talked of the importance of democracy, equity and service. These are the values that we bring to our work as pediatricians. I look forward to joining you in the work that lies ahead this coming year.
Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP