Although his legacy is rather messy and controversial, I think anyone can find at least something to admire in the life and vision of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. I like that The Motorcycle Diaries book included his later speech to Cuban medical students because we are able to hear for ourselves how Che’s journey around Latin America shaped his later ideals. I also love this speech because there are a number of thought-provoking challenges that Che issues to these students. So, in the interest of considering what is admirable in Che’s legacy and responding to his challenges, I’d like you to reflect in a blog post on one of the following two topics from this speech. Please take the time to write thoughtfully and personally!
1.) Your first option is to draw inspiration from what Che describes as his vision for “social medicine“(170). He challenges these medical students to think more holistically—and more radically—about their role as doctors in bringing healing and justice to their society. He even states that a “revolutionary doctor…is a person who puts the technical knowledge of his profession at the service of the revolution and of the people”(169). This is inspiring to me because I think we should all consider how our individualized talents and training can benefit others. Perhaps every skill set or vocation can be used to serve other people and improve society in some way. Think about your own dreams and the training you would like to pursue in the future. How does serving others fit into these plans? How can your future goals or aspirations serve a greater purpose in society? How do you think you could possibly use the skills, power, and/or position of your desired future vocation to bring about positive social change?
2.) Your second option is to consider Che’s challenge to these students to leave their privilege and comfort behind and take intentional action to know and serve the lower classes. I absolutely love these lines: “Go there and find out what diseases they have, what their ailments are, what extreme poverty they have experienced over the years, inherited from centuries of repression and total submission. The doctor, the medical worker, should then go to the heart of their new work, which is as a person among the masses, a person within the community…We should not draw closer to the people to say: ‘Here we are. We come to give you the charity of our presence, to teach you with our science, to demonstrate your errors, your lack of refinement, your lack of elementary knowledge.’ We should go with an investigative zeal and with a humble spirit, to learn from the great source of wisdom that is the people”(173). So inspiring! But so tricky as well! What do these challenges mean to you, in your own life and context? Realistically, what might it look like for you to “go and find out” the realities and needs of those who are most underserved and marginalized in your own society? Why is this important? What might prohibit you from taking such action?