What if I were the President?

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My father died in 2014. Without a will! That was a remarkable thing for a well-educated man who always threatened us in childhood that for playing the fool, he was going to take us out of his will! To this day I continue to blame myself because as a medical doctor I knew his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was a death sentence! The culture in Ghana forbade such discussion with a sick patient, so as I watched him on his deathbed, I had an ongoing battle in me as to how to avoid the advice of the elders and tell him he was going to pass and that he should put his affairs in order! The doctor part me of me wanted to do the ‘art of medicine’ but the traditional part of me won the argument!

The practice of medicine is both an art and a science! The science part is easy, anyone can be taught to do it! The art part is more difficult and will decide if you would ever be a good doctor or not! The art of medicine involves personal manners, bedside humility, and “communicating bad news.” The latter part does not come easy! It takes time to learn but when you master it, you get to enjoy the confidence of your patients and their families even in bad times!

There are many times when my patients have been diagnosed with serious medical conditions like cancer or stroke, some of them terminal. And as I grapple with delivering the news to the patients and their families, I have realised that the bad news when delivered appropriately allows the patients and families to make the right decisions, 99% of the time! Many times patients will tell me they have had a “good life” and are not perturbed by their terminal illnesses! They would “rather go home and die in the comfort of their home and family.”

This is the America I know, not a bunch of suckers who want be lied to for comfort and confidence!

Western democracy is littered with many examples of crises where leaders like Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt rose to the occasion and delivered bad news to their respective citizens and still won their confidence! I can still recite some of Churchill’s speeches during the fight with Nazi Germany, we shall fight on the streets, we shall fight on the beaches… WE WILL NEVER SURRENDER!

FDR at his inaugural address during the Great Depression said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” As famine and ruin ravaged America he did not whitewash the reality of what was happening, but actually warned about being paralysed by fear, all the while putting in appropriate measures to save the economy!

A rare photo of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a wheel chair

So in this time of Coronavirus pandemic and racial unrest, what would I a mere shitholer from the Great Village of Pepease, do to gain the confidence of America and chart a way forward if I were president!

Well to begin with I would tell the TRUTH! I would relay the facts that COVID-19 is spread by air droplets and that wearing a mask is not only the right thing to do but the patriotic thing to do! I would wear a mask myself to project confidence!

I would assure Americans that their government is ever ready to assist and comfort then in these times of crisis and willing to deploy the full force of the “richest and most powerful country ever” to fight this virus.

I would project confidence and inject facts, proven methods that worked in the past pandemic, social distancing, masks, and personal hygiene” would be my chewing stick. I would swear on my honour that projection of confidence and TRUTH need not be mutually exclusive!

On the issue of racial tensions, even as I abide by my LAW and ORDER message, I would give a speech to the nation, acknowledging that systemic racism is an issue that plagues our society and needs to be talked about with the aim of finding real solutions to diminish this scourge. In fact, I would acknowledge that the economic disparity that exists between blacks and whites in America exists because of systemic racism. That is an undeniable fact!

I would appeal to peaceful protesters that I hear them and would work with Congress to address the issues they are concerned about! That is the hallmark of Leadership!

But alas I am not president! Just a mere Shitholer minding my own goddamn business in America!

By Dr. Yaw Berko a physician who practices internal medicine in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Feature photo: White House by David Mark from Pixabay


A physician providing primary medical care to patients across the lifespan