. . . that was born as we began as sort of a job employment referral center, trying to find felony-friendly employers [laughter] and that wasn’t so forthcoming. So by ’92, we had to start our own. We really — so we couldn’t wait. The demand was so huge and gang members kept saying if only we had jobs. So we started Homeboy Bakery in 1992 and, a month later, we started Homeboy Tortillas in the Grand Central Market, a historic kind of area in LA. Once we had two . . .
“We couldn’t wait.” “The demand was so huge.”
— Greg Boyle, Problem-Solver.
Dr. C. Everett Koop, the nation’s 13th Surgeon General, died on Monday at the age of 96. He held the position of Surgeon General from 1982 to 1989, after his appointment by President Ronald Regan. While AIDS had just been discovered in the United States in 1981, its spread, as we know, moved rapidly throughout the country and became an epidemic.
Dr. Koop, serving in a previously low-profile position, used his power as Surgeon General to provide to all Americans the power to stop the spread of AIDS: the power of knowledge. He authored a 7-page brochure, “Understanding AIDS,” explaining in explicit detail what was then known about how HIV was transmitted. The brochure was mailed to all 107 million households in the country in 1988! Dr. Koop’s educational outreach is remarkable not only because of its scale, but because he was able to view the scientific evidence before him and communicate scientific, medical information, without accompanying political propaganda, that saved lives — even, as the Washington Post notes, “when almost nobody in the Reagan administration would even utter the word ‘AIDS’.”
Dr. Koop was personally opposed to premarital sex and homosexual sexual relations, but his devotion to professional excellence would not allow him to stand by as people died because of lack of information. Not only was he able to clearly explain the varied methods of transmission known at the time, but he explained that everyone was at some risk: it was not a “gay men’s disease.” HIV transmission and AIDS are still a problem (you can read the most up-to-date information on the National Institute of Health’s website), but Dr. Koop’s professional, thoughtful, science-based, and bold action moved the nation forward. Thank you, Dr. Koop. Rest in peace.
A great discovery solves a great problem but there is a grain of discovery in the solution of any problem. Your problem may be modest; but if it challenges your curiosity and brings into play your inventive faculties, and if you solve it by your own means, you may experience the tension and enjoy the triumph of discovery.
From the Preface to the First Printing
August 1, 1944 How to Solve It
Yesterday, I saw the movie Zero Dark Thirty which portrays the search for and killing of Osama Bin Laden, or as the protagonist CIA agent character referenced him in the movie, UBL. Actor Jessica Chastain plays the character of the real-life CIA agent who, as it appears in the film, followed up on a lead she would not let go of — whether through superior intelligence or intuition/hunch or a combination of science and art (the film suggests all three). She did much gritty, tedious, dedicated work to arrive at her convictions, and then, persistently pursued the next logical action. True or not, I love the scenes where the character writes a number in white-board marker on her boss’s window every day — the number of days no follow-up action had been taken after her finding of UBL’s location. 21, 48, 80, 100 days and on; she writes the number every day, pushing him to take the case to the decision-makers.
Hard, dedicated work. Sound convictions. Persistence. It’s certainly not a new formula, but one of which we need to remind ourselves. Chastain’s character spent ten years following and tracking one good lead, which she found after relentlessly reviewing interrogation tapes. It would be easy to say that she had a noble and grand purpose, that she had much more important work than we. But then we would be selling both short. Protection of life from harm is so that life may go on in its every-day-ness, its teaching and dusting and road-building and nursing and marketing, . . . and, and, and . . . Honest work in and of itself is good and noble. Don’t sell yourself — or those who work so hard to protect us and our work — short.
Are you doing honest work? Work hard. Find your convictions. Persist to their logical outcomes.