“Siddhartha On His Raft” is the third track on my second album, No Hay Pueblo Vencido, which we released a few months ago. The album art features Brendan Hoffman’s excellent photographs from the Mexico-U.S. border. “Vencido” is in part a tale of the Americas. It feels a bit more urgent right now in light of the coup in Honduras.
Access to medicines work continues to carry me frequently overseas. In addition to Latin America, I’ve started spending time in Western and Eastern Europe. The constancy of hard working, good-natured advocates in my life is a helpful source of renewal. I think social progress is too complex – the collision of millions of wills, in Tolstoy’s description – to measure the work of citizens only by the obvious victories. But it is still good to know that working with Colombian civil society we cut HIV/AIDS drug prices in Colombia this year, winning 54-68% price reductions for a key medicine called lopinavir+ritonavir. The drug giant Abbott Labs filed 900 pages of oppositions to our competition request and lobbied the government heavily, but public and HIV/AIDS treatment priorities still came out a major step ahead. And we’re not finished yet.
A separate team of diligent volunteers is preparing for the public launch of International Professional Partnerships for Sierra Leone (IPPSL). At the request of Sierra Leone’s Cabinet and Foreign Minister, our Partnership will bring cross-culturally experienced early-career professionals to work under the direction of Sierra Leone government officers, and help implement their vision for the country’s future. Sierra Leone ranks among the world’s least developed countries. State collapse led to a decade-long rebel war. The country is recovering now, and cautious optimism reins. But government is still experiencing a shortage of specialized public sector staff.
We expect our initial contributions to be modest, but valued. Our first fellow, U.C. Berkeley-trained lawyer Asa Solway, begins work in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, this September, and we’re considering several applicants for the fall. In coming months, IPPSL will incorporate in Washington, D.C., with a Board featuring Sierra Leoneans and Americans who have lived and worked in Sierra Leone.
I am preparing to record a third album this fall. I sometimes lose myself in the woods, mentally writing for various instruments, and occasionally wake up with a song fragment written in a dream.
I’m grateful to be taking this journey with you, each of us trying to find a use for our voice, searching for connection in an age where distance is more easily crossed, and purpose or community more easily lost. I’m interested to hear what you have been up to, and eager to seek common purpose. -peter
Watch "Siddhartha On His Raft." Thanks to film editor Avery Lanier and to Rachel Lewis.