Human Exceptionalism

Surgeon General’s Weight is None of Our Business

Much is apparently being made of Regina Benjamin, President Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, being overweight.  From the story:

[T]he full-figured African-American nominee is also under fire for being overweight in a nation where 34 percent of all Americans aged 20 and over are obese. Critics and supporters across the blogsphere have commented on photos of Benjamin’s round cheeks, saying she sends the wrong message as the public face of America’s health initiatives. But others support the 52-year-old founder and CEO of Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic, citing new research that shows you cannot always judge a book by its cover when it comes to obesity…Bloggers on Salon.com speculated that Benjamin is 40 pounds overweight, perhaps a size 18. The nominee didn’t return calls from ABCNews.com, so there is no information about how much she weighs or her eating and exercise habits.

Spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services Jenny Backus issued this statement: “Dr. Benjamin is a highly qualified physician who has dedicated her life to providing care to her patients. She is a role model for all of us, and will be an outstanding surgeon general.” Even some of the most reputable names in medicine chimed in. “I think it is an issue, but then the president is said to still smoke cigarettes,” said Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicinewho is now a senior lecturer at Harvard University Medical School. “It tends to undermine her credibility.”

These critics should mind their own business. We all have our shortcomings. President Obama smokes, but that doesn’t mean he can’t advocate policies intended to reduce smoking.

If we want our Surgeon General to be a personal role model in fitness, appoint Jack Lalanne.  Benjamin is to be an advocate and an educator of the public. Rather than judge our new Surgeon General by her dress size, let us instead judge her by the quality of her ideas and the excellence of her medical understanding.