Meet the hippie-turned-doctor who helped save us from the worst epidemic in history.

In 1962, a chance encounter with Martin Luther King Jr. would transform the life of a young medical student named Larry Brilliant.

Larry Brilliant with an early Apple II computer. All images courtesy of HarperCollins.

Dr. Brilliant would go on to help eradicate smallpox, direct Google.org, help save 4 million people from blindness, and become one of the foremost experts in global pandemics.

But at 19 years old, Brilliant was holed up in his dorm room, subsisting on stale peanut candy and comic books, grief-stricken at the thought of losing his father to cancer.


One rainy Michigan day, Brilliant pulled himself out of his dorm and stumbled into an auditorium to see a black preacher from Atlanta, Georgia, speak of hope, truth, and justice.

Only 60 students stood in a cavernous room meant for 3,000. The school administrators were embarrassed by the low turnout, but Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t. Chuckling warmly, he told the assembly, “Why don’t y’all come up here. That way, there’s more of me to go around.”

Martin Luther King Jr. at the University of Michigan, 1962.

Brilliant joined the others at King's feet and sat transfixed as a one-hour lecture turned into six.

“[King] famously talked about the arc of the moral universe that would bend towards justice, but it wouldn’t bend on its own. You have to jump up, drag it, twist it, pull it down towards justice. You have to influence that arc,” Brilliant said.

The experience changed Brilliant. He knew he couldn’t just lie around feeling unmotivated.

Brilliant started a journey of self-discovery and transformation that would help save the lives of millions in the process.

Inspired by King, Brilliant became an activist. He marched in civil rights rallies. In 1970, he delivered a Native American baby on Alcatraz Island during a standoff with the United States government. He even saved the life of a former Green Beret who attacked him on the island with a knife.

Larry Brilliant at Alcatraz Island.

Ensuing fame led to a call from Warner Brothers, and soon, Brilliant was starring in a "Woodstock on wheels" film called "Medicine Ball Caravan," playing a doctor alongside musical luminaries like Alice Cooper and B.B. King. Then, he ended up taking a caravan across the Khyber Pass with his wife, Girija, and his best friend, a hippie named Wavy Gravy.

Brilliant's adventures can seem too wild to be true. But, through it all, he was on the way to finding his destiny.

In 1972, Brilliant ended up in the Himalayas at the feet of a holy man. The guru, named Neem Karoli Baba, clasped Brilliant's hand and gave him the realization of a deep, profound, and universal love for everyone in the world.

Brilliant with his guru, Neem Karoli Baba.

“These machines that we live in, these bodies, they don’t come with an operating manual, and I did not know that mine was capable. I didn’t know where the on switch was that loved everybody. But he turned it on,” Brilliant said of their meeting.

The guru — who referred to Brilliant as "Dr. America" —  told him that his destiny would be to work to cure one of the worst pandemics of all time: smallpox.

Smallpox killed over 300 million people in the 20th century, and it was wreaking havoc on families in India.

Following the instructions of his guru, the now 27-year-old Brilliant took the 17-hour train ride to the World Health Organization headquarters in New Delhi. But success didn't happen overnight for the young doctor.

“I was kicked out in 30 seconds," Brilliant said. "I walked in with a dress on, and a beard down to my knees, and it was a gown. But you know, they thought it looked like a dress. It was an ashram robe. And they kicked me out." 13 attempts later, he finally got the lowest paid job there.

In just a few years, Brilliant went on to lead a WHO team that would play a key role in eradicating smallpox.

Smallpox eradication team from Chota Nagpur.

Brilliant recalled that there were staff from 170 different countries in the WHO smallpox eradication program — all fighting the disease together despite deep division among many of their countries.

"In the middle of the Cold War, Russians and Americans worked together to eradicate smallpox, and the people sitting around the table were from every race, every religion, every language you could think of," Brilliant said.

The team was greater than the sum of their parts, and in 1975, they won. Brilliant saw the last case of killer smallpox with his own eyes: a girl named Rahima Banu. After contracting the disease at 2 years old, she was cured.

Rahima Banu, the last known smallpox patient.

Brilliant went on to mobilize friends — including Steve Jobs, whom he had met in his Guru's ashram in India — to do even more good.

He contacted former members from WHO and created Seva, an organization that gave sight to 4 million blind people.

He became executive director of Google.org and won the TED Prize. He laid out his wish for an early warning system to stop pandemics and helped create Google Flu Trends.

He chaired the Skoll Global Threats Fund, becoming one of humanity's greatest hopes in the fight against global pandemics.

Ultimately, Brilliant is one of the biggest heroes in global health today.

Larry Brilliant gives polio vaccine drops in Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh, India.

He's truly lived a "brilliant" life. Just like many of us, he’s struggled with depression and fear, and he's wondered what his purpose was — but he's always known to listen.

"I used to tell my students when I was a professor, always expect the imponderabilia. That’s a made-up word," Brilliant said. "It’s a little creature that comes upon you when you least expect it and whispers in your ear something you haven’t thought of. Always expect that little unexpected twist. Always be willing to listen."

Brilliant’s story teaches us that incredible human accomplishments can only be achieved through faith in ourselves and joining together with a common goal in mind. It takes all of us to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.  

True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Terence Power / TikTok

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It was filmed before face masks were required, so you can see the boy's beautiful reaction to the song.

Power uploaded it to TikTok because he had just joined the platform and had no idea the number of lives it would touch. "The support on it is unbelievable. I posted it on my Instagram a while back and on Facebook and the support then was amazing," he told Dublin Live.

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True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

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