News » Rodham Institute Hosts Hillary Clinton for Impact Speaker Series

Rodham Institute Hosts Hillary Clinton for Impact Speaker Series

In an hour-long webinar, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jehan “Gigi” El-Bayoumi, MD, RESD ’88, founding director of the George Washington University (GW) Rodham Institute and professor of medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, spoke about a range of topics, including COVID-19, health disparities, mental illness, and the recent protests over the killing of George Floyd.

The discussion, held June 1, was third installment of the Rodham Institute’s Impact Speaker Series, and was co-sponsored by BlackDoctor.Org. The Rodham Institute was established in 2013 in honor of the late Dorothy Rodham, Clinton’s mother.

The conversation opened with discussion of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and particularly its impact on communities of color. “In D.C. we have had 466 deaths, 466 souls, 466 human beings who have died thus far,” said El-Bayoumi. “And 80 percent of them are African American.”

She noted the importance of working with these communities, including with local nonprofits, faith-based organizations, health councils, and correctional facilities, to make sure their needs are met and their voices are heard. “To not only talk the talk, but to walk the walk … to stand with the community and to let them know we are here to serve them,” she said.

The Rodham Institute has been active in supporting D.C. residents amid the pandemic, distributing more than 1,000 masks to frontline workers, as well as donations of more than 700 boxes of food and meals. Education also has been top of mind for the institute, and it has hosted more than 20 webinars on the impacts of the coronavirus. 

The conversation also turned to both the impacts of the pandemic and the recent protests in cities throughout the country.

“We live in an interconnected world, and all of these different problems have been laid bare by COVID-19, but also by the brutal killing of Mr. Floyd and others who have died in the last several weeks,” Clinton said. “It lays bare the continuing problems we as a nation confront, and we need to take them seriously and have an honest reckoning about the structural racism and the inherent discriminatory and biased views we unfortunately are still seeing acted out in so many ways across our country.”

She added that the United States has to be more committed to and effective in “creating greater opportunity and greater equity.”

El-Bayoumi noted how COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color illustrates the deeper racial problems America faces. She noted a study from Virginia Commonwealth University on life expectancy in the Washington, D.C., region that found people who live in Georgetown have a life expectancy of 94 years, while residents of Anacostia have a life expectancy of 66.3.

She then put Clinton on the spot, asking: If you were in charge, where would you start when it comes to health care?

Clinton said the answer is multifaceted, but must start at the beginning of an individual’s life. “We now know the stressors that children experience in the first five years of life can have a lasting damaging effect on their health for the rest of their lives,” she said.

She added that pregnant woman also need to receive better care, noting that in some parts of the U.S. the maternal mortality rate is that of a third-world country.

The health care system, she said, must also prioritize primary health care and work to prevent an individual’s health problems from becoming dire.

“You have to start with the earliest experiences and you have to tackle the environment, tackle the stresses, and improve the function of our institutions if we’re going to take better care of everybody,” she said.

Toward the end of the conversation, both Clinton and El-Bayoumi turned back to the killing of Floyd and current protests. 

Clinton said she’s working to support groups like Color of Change, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization that works to strengthen the political voice of African Americans, through her organization Onward Together. 

One of the most important steps anyone can take, she added, is to register to vote and head to the polls on Election Day.
“It is possible to make progress with different leaders,” she said. “Leadership really, really matters.”

Watch the full conversation here.