Wednesday, November 26, 2008

World AIDS Day 2008

I received this in my email today - and loved it's thoughtful encouragement for all of us as we face World AIDS Day on December 1st.

Dear Heidi,

My name is Lt. Colonel Shane Kimbrough and I am on the International Space Station orbiting 200 miles above the earth.

During the 90 minutes it takes us to circle the earth, we do not see borders or boundaries. From up here, the task of solving the world’s biggest problems seems less daunting. But when our shuttle lands next Sunday, we will return to a world where border disputes and financial crises lead the nightly news. Those challenges define our world and their solutions will define our future.

That’s why I joined ONE. I believe with my voice and yours and millions of others taking on the challenges of extreme poverty and preventable diseases, these problems become less daunting and more solvable.

I wouldn’t be here today if President Kennedy hadn’t called on America to make space exploration a priority. In 1961 he said, “We face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions have imposed upon this nation the role of leader in freedom’s cause.” He called on America to marshal its courage and creativity, its intelligence and determination to put a man on the moon.

There were skeptics. Some said it wasn’t possible. Some thought we should instead focus on other concerns here at home. But President Kennedy – and the American people – would not be deterred. We set a goal; we made a plan; we put a man on the moon; we changed the way we saw our world.

President Kennedy’s vision forced us to look to the moon and raise our expectations of what is possible. Looking back at the earth with the same perspective as those early astronauts, Kennedy’s philosophy about our own planet is with me today: “Our most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures, and we are all mortal.”

Today, a renewed courage is sweeping the world. People are dreaming boldly and, more importantly, they are ready to turn those dreams into actions.

On World AIDS Day, December 1st, we are celebrating our success in helping to bring lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment to 3 million people globally, including 2 million Africans. But there are 7 million more people who are in critical need of AIDS drugs and don't have them. There are also millions at risk of becoming infected with HIV.

We can drastically reduce poverty and preventable diseases, including HIV/AIDS, on our planet. But it will take all of us working together as one to achieve that goal. As Bono has said, ending extreme poverty could be our generation’s moonshot. This could be our new frontier. We should focus our attention to those on our planet who need help the most.

That’s what I believe. That’s my story. And that’s why I am a member of ONE.

What about you? Why are you ONE in the fight against global poverty and preventable diseases? Share your story at:

ONE plans to feature what we have to say on its website, to inspire more people to add their voices to ours, and to make a real difference for those who are fighting hard to break free from extreme poverty. Use your webcam or your keyboard. Send in pictures. And spread the word.

Up here, we see one world, one home we all inhabit.

I’ll check in again when I’m back from orbit.

From the International Space Station,

Lt. Colonel Shane Kimbrough
Mission Specialist, Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-126)

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