Over the past three years, I posited a wide-range of potential Democratic national tickets that would be the strongest team to not only crush Donald Trump, but to sweep in a Democratic Senate and keep Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.
Throughout 2017 and early 2018, I floated the idea of a Cuomo/Klobuchar ticket (in either order), before Andrew Cuomo became the proactive poster boy of COVID-19 public officials, and graced the cover of Rolling Stone.
Long a progressive, Warren Democrat, I favored the all female 2016 ticket of Clinton/Warren. With Warren declaring for President in 2020, I thought a Warren/Cory Booker ticket would be a powerhouse, especially since Hillary’s loss exposed the weakness of a Democratic National ticket without a strong, African American candidate.
When neither Booker’s, nor Kamala Harris’ national campaigns took off, and Biden began to look like the practical alternative to defeat Trump, many Democratic activists began trading the names of VP picks, as if we were assembling fantasy baseball teams. Biden’s announcement that he wanted a woman on the ticket, narrowed that field, even though we occasionally entertained the notion of a Biden/Booker, Biden/Cuomo or Biden/Barack Obama as a powerful one-two punch.
As Biden narrows down his Vice-Presidential field of dreams to a select group of women, I believe that it must be a woman of color, for many sound political reasons, particularly to energize voter turnout among the Democrats most reliable voting block—women, and specifically Black women. While the first, and most politically potent, choice of many might be Michelle Obama, the former First Lady has repeatedly said she’s not interested. Good, strong second choices abound, with Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, Val Demings, and even Senator Tammy Duckworth (an Asian/Pacific Islander) leading the field.
Yet, the calamitous consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic may have picked the most powerful, and obvious, running mate of all for us. The best choice for Biden has been crusading for public health for decades, tackling epidemics like HIV/AIDS, TB, and health and economic inequality. Her name is Dr. Helene D. Gayle. Google Dr. Gayle, and you’ll be blown away.
Trained and board-certified in Pediatric Medicine (her MD from University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and her Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health), Dr. Gayle worked at the CDC for 20 years, directing the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention.
Helene’s heroic work in HIV/AIDS was recognized by Bill & Melinda Gates, when they hired her away from the CDC to run their Foundation’s HIV, TB & Reproductive Health Program, which she did for 5 years, expanding her expertise to help those in greatest need globally. There were still ‘mountains beyond mountains’ for Dr. Gayle to climb and in 2005, her talent was tapped by one of the world’s premier international relief and development organizations, CARE, USA, with programs that help more than 80 million people in 93 countries, and over 10,000 employees spread across the globe. CARE is now dedicated to stopping the spread of the Corona Virus Emergency. (www.care.org).
Dr. Gayle served as President and CEO of CARE, for 10 years, “helping millions of people recover from natural disasters and other acute emergencies, prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and gain access to healthcare, nutrition, education, economic opportunity, safe water and improved sanitation.” A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Public Health Association, and the National Academy of Medicine, Helene Gayle was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the most powerful women in the world, and by Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 “Global Thinkers.” She has more high-level Administrative accomplishments than all other possible female candidates for VP, combined.
Like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has won over the American public through his straightforward, medical-science based information, Helene Gale was also born in New York State and has dedicated her professional life to improving public health. One of five children raised in a Buffalo, N.Y, family that revered education, she was educated at Columbia University’s Barnard College, before attending Medical School. Dr. Gayle has chaired President Obama’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, and launched a McKinsey Social Initiative (now, McKinsey.org) that builds public/private partnerships for social impact.
Helene Gayle, articulate and charismatic, was among the very first global public health officials to recognize, early on, that the HIV/AIDS epidemic was taking a heavy toll upon the Black, Latino and poor communities in the United States. When I served as CEO of Cable Positive, the AIDS action and education organization of the Cable & Telecommunications industry, I was fortunate to collaborate with Dr. Gayle on several HIV/AIDS education projects during the early 2000’s, including producing a series of Public Service Announcements and documentaries aimed at communities of color. In 2008, the entire industry gave Helene Gayle the only Humanitarian Award it has ever bestowed upon any individual. Extraordinary.
Three years ago, Dr. Gayle moved to Chicago to head one of nation’s oldest and largest community foundations, the Chicago Community Trust, focusing sharply on closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the Chicago area. The move extended her first hand experience and fact-based problem-solving approach into every region of the nation, from both coasts, to the South—where she lived for decades—and now to the nation’s heartland. She is the personification of a global, caring, experienced and highly capable citizen. Like Dr. Fauci, Dr. Gayle is a consummate medical and public health professional, not a politician. She has run vast national and international non-profit, public service organizations on the strength of science, fairness and humanity.
And, for Joe Biden, and all Americans, Dr. Helene Gayle is the most outstanding, highly qualified candidate for Vice-President, during the greatest public health crisis in over 100 years. It’s all about the science, and humanity.