President's Blog

Summer has come to an end, and my children are starting another year of school, along with 57 million other elementary, middle, and high school students in the US. It’s a time for reflection, for thinking about what our children learn, and what we teach them. This summer, we’ve seen-week after week, day after day-naked racism, domestic terror through mass shootings, a multifaceted and devastating attack on immigrant children and families, and a global economy showing signs of unwinding. To some degree this summer, it feels like what I’ve been teaching my children is to be afraid. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve taught them that fear has power. Fear can defeat us and demoralize us.

Yes, there is such a thing as good fear. What would we call someone who’s not afraid to run into a burning building? Or jump into oncoming traffic? Or root for the Knicks? We would call them a fool. But on some level, and at some critical moments, acknowledging fear means falling victim to it. Once we acknowledge our fear, then we require courage to overcome it. Fear is a barrier that constrains us, slows us down, makes us consider consequences, and courage becomes yet another tool that we need but may or may not have at any given moment. When we gain courage, we’re no longer fools-we become something greater, but also something less.

What would we call someone who’s not afraid to run into a burning building, or jump into oncoming traffic, in order to save a child? We would still call them a fool, but we would add that perhaps we need more fools. We need to raise children who, at the right moment and at the right time, will be able to think only of doing the right thing, without considering consequences. And because teaching is in part showing, we need to show them that we can do the same.

APA members are some of the truest, purest, most courageous people I know. Now the country needs us to be better than courageous. It needs us to be fools. In each of our communities, we see racism, small acts of domestic terror, daily attacks on people’s security and dignity, and economic fragility. What will we show our children the next time that happens, not just our own children but the children we see in our clinics and hospitals? What will we show our students? What will we show each other?

How many of us will walk into a room, foolishly unafraid, and yell at the top of our lungs, “Go Knicks?”


Paul Chung, MD
Academic Pediatric Association




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