LifeLong Marks 60th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act of 1964

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, landmark legislation that codified key anti-discrimination protections for all Americans. 

The act prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in public places and in employment and further declared the integration of school and public places. 

The passage of this sweeping legislation would not have been possible without the courage and resolve of many leaders – including Martin Luther King, Jr., then-President Lyndon Johnson, and Representative John Lewis — who championed the legislation signed into law on July 2, 1964. 

David B. Vliet, CEO

LifeLong CEO David B. Vliet invoked some of those brave leaders along with local visionaries and highlighted the significance of the Civil Rights Act in a speech he gave on Saturday June 22, 2024, at the graduation of LifeLong’s second class of resident physicians. David’s remarks are below in their entirety: 

“Good evening, everyone, my name is David Vliet, CEO of LifeLong Medical Care. I am extremely pleased to be here this afternoon and to offer a few words to the graduating residents of the LifeLong Medicine Residency Program.  

Twice a month I have the opportunity to do a new employee orientation for those that join LifeLong and hopefully have a long career with us.  It’s one of my favorite parts of the job because it’s pretty much the only opportunity I have to share with them some important expectations that we have of them, expectations that they should have of us and, importantly, to share the origin story of LifeLong and the community health center movement and the context in which they’ll be working.  

Part of what I talk about is the importance in understanding that the public infrastructure that we see around us in our communities didn’t just pop up out of the earth and magically appear here.  Whether it’s the library system, the university system, the community college system, community recreation centers, arts, and cultural venues, and of course, community health centers, all were bought and paid for with a price, if you will. And equal access to those services was bought with a price.  It certainly is the case with community health centers where access to care for those that need it came at a very high cost. That cost was effort and hard-won victories that helped them come into existence. 

It was only 60 years ago that not all people in our country had equal and legally protected access to some of the services that I have mentioned – – and it was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that made it possible. It was not that long ago. 

In the community health center movement, we consider this the cornerstone legislation for the work we do, legislation, that, coupled with the vision and broad shoulders of the many pioneers that marched, pushed, lobbied, prayed, built, created, cried, and rejoiced, as they stood up community- based health centers that would provide access to care without regard to the ability to pay. 

Community health centers have always been a rebuttal to the disparate lack of access to quality care experienced in our society yesterday and today. It took broad shoulders to provide the vision and the momentum to create what we see around us, not only at LifeLong but all our sister clinics in the Bay Area and across the United States and territories to where almost every congressional district has this important community infrastructure. 

In our community, it took the vision of the Sherry Hirotas, the Martin Wakazoos, the Dr. Bob Coopers, the Sue Comptons, the Ralph Silbers, and the Marty Lynch’s to build what we see around us. It was and is hard work. It was critical work. It was work that stands and will continue to stand despite the difficult challenges we are facing in an extraordinary post-COVID healthcare world. 

Which brings me to this amazing medical education infrastructure and the broad shoulders that we have stood on to make this dream come true.  Shoulders that belong to Drs. Eric Henley and Marty Lynch, the LifeLong Board of Directors, and many others that contributed to building of this program. It’s a remarkable story. 

And a wonderful reality that what we see around us now supports and trains outstanding new doctors that come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, doctors who will do powerful and important work that will increase the wellness of people and radiate improved health outcomes wherever they serve. Their efforts to help humans and communities flourish and improve will have an everlasting impact on the hearts, minds, families, and patients they serve. It’s a wonderful thing. “

Our wish for you as community-based doctors is that you will become the next generation of broad shoulders on which the following generations will stand. You’re already activists, advocates, healers, and visionaries.   

You will make a dramatic impact on the communities you serve. You will be the rebuttal to the lack of access to care.  You will help build the important infrastructure of the future, like it was built for us.   

At LifeLong, we are proud to have played a part and we send you forth with our best wishes, prayers and support.