The conversation that matters Writer Ellen Goodman to deliver seventh St. Luke’s Littner lecture
Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist and founder-director of The Conversation Project, will speak on “The Most Important Conversation America Isn’t Having” at the seventh annual Dr. and Mrs. Max Littner Memorial Lecture Series for Bereavement, 7:30 p.m. April 19, Central Moravian Church, Main and Church streets, Bethlehem. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
The lecture is also sponsored by St. Luke’s University Health Network.
A career journalist, Goodman worked for Newsweek magazine, the Detroit Free Press, and The Boston Globe. While at the Globe, she began writing her column on social issues that affected American life, and in 1976 it was syndicated, eventually being carried by 450 newspapers. In 1980, a portfolio of her columns received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
Other awards followed, including the American Society of News Editors Distinguished Writing Award, the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the President’s Award by the National Women’s Political Caucus, and the American Woman Award by the Women’s Research & Education Institute. In 2008, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists gave her the Ernie Pyle Award for Lifetime Achievement.
The author of nine books, Goodman announced her retirement in her last column in 2010. That same year, she founded The Conversation Project. The “conversation” we’re not having, Goodman says, is about people’s wishes for their end-of-life care. She includes herself among those who didn’t have the conversation, in her case with her own mother.
“I started thinking about it when my mother was not only aging, but also suffering with some dementia. In my mom’s last years of life, she was no longer able to decide what she wanted for dinner, let alone what she wanted for medical treatment I realized only after her death how much easier it would have all been if I heard her voice in my ear as these decisions had to be made.”
After her mother’s death, Goodman says she found that there were a large number of people with the same experiences. “So, we sat around a table and talked about it. What we knew is we could do it better.”
That was the birth of The Conversation Project, a non-profit whose goal is to make conversations about end-of-life care easier, and to make sure that individuals’ wishes are expressed and respected.
We don’t have the conversation, Goodman says, because it is a “very tender and difficult subject, a subject about loss and death.”
She adds that there is a taboo about talking about death, but there seem to be people, particularly baby boomers, who are breaking through the taboo. “Baby boomers are the change agent.”
What will it take to really get the conversations going? “We have to deal with people where they work and live and play,” Goodman says, “and we need people in health care professions to be open in talking with their patients.”
Besides hearing what is needed to start the conversation, guests at Goodman’s lecture will each be given a starter kit that explores the questions that need to be asked about the end of life, including: Where do you want to be? Who do you want to make decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself? What kinds of medical procedures do you want performed? What matters the most to you?
The Littner Memorial Lecture Series is co-sponsored by St. Luke’s University Health Network, and was created to raise consciousness for the big issues of life: living meaningfully and well, and sparking necessary conversations with loved ones about issues that are truly matters of life and death.
General admission tickets for Ellen Goodman’s lecture are available at: slhn.org/littnerlectureseries, or by calling 1-866-STLUKES (785-8537)