The first Aurora Forum of the Spring Quarter will feature former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders in conversation with LaDoris Cordell, vice provost and special counselor to the president for campus relations.
A distinguished professor at the College of Public Health of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Elders will discuss her personal journey and life of public service. "Joycelyn Elders: From Sharecropper's Daughter to Surgeon General" is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 14, in Kresge Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
Elders spent 15 months as the U.S. surgeon general before the White House forced her to resign in 1994 after she made a controversial remark at an AIDS conference. Specifically, she said masturbation "is a part of human sexuality and it's a part of something that perhaps should be taught." Some accused her of promoting "how to" courses at school; others, including Elders, said the comment had been misconstrued and only referred to teaching children about masturbation in sex education courses.
Elders has long been an advocate for preventive measures in guarding against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Her outspokenness in favor of making contraceptives and sex education courses better available in schools, as well as her suggestion that the government study the possibility of legalizing drugs, made her a lightning rod for criticism by many congressional conservatives.
Born in 1933 to a large sharecropper family in Arkansas, Elders began attending Philander Smith College in Little Rock at age 15. After graduating, she entered the Army as a first lieutenant and was trained as a physical therapist. With the help of the GI Bill, she attended medical school at the University of Arkansas. She earned her medical degree in 1960 and a master's degree in biochemistry in 1967.
She was the first African American woman to hold the position of U.S. surgeon general. She is the author of three books, including Joycelyn Elders, M.D.: From Sharecropper's Daughter to Surgeon General of the United States of America.
Cordell, who earned her law degree at Stanford in 1974, was the first African American woman to serve on the bench in Northern California. (In 1982, she was appointed to the Municipal Court of Santa Clara County.) She was elected a county Superior Court judge in 1988.
Sponsored by Continuing Studies, the Aurora Forum brings panels of socially engaged writers, artists and scholars to Stanford to discuss the past, present and future of the nation's ideals and aspirations. All events take place at 7:30 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium and are free and open to the public. A full schedule of dates, panelists and topics is available on the web at auroraforum.org.
Stanford Report, April 9, 2003