Dr. Ralph L. Bass, Jr. joined Population Connection in 2013 and has been supporting the organization as a President’s Circle member ever since. It is always fascinating for us to learn about our committed supporters’ lives and what personally motivates them to give to our mission of global population stabilization. Dr. Bass’s story is one of hope—something we could all use in these tumultuous times.
Dr. Bass grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, back when it was a small city of about 35,000 residents, and was raised by a Catholic mother who placed him in a Catholic elementary school.
After suffering a severe hand injury playing football his freshman year of high school, Dr. Bass decided that he would become a physician. He could have lost two fingers had it not been for the skill of his family doctor, who had taken extra surgical training. He decided that medicine was a natural fit for his skills and interest in helping others.
In 1956, as a high school senior, he was offered a football scholarship from the University of Florida. He turned it down. The medical program there was brand new—just accepting its first freshman class—and he felt that the demands of college football would not be compatible with excelling in a premed program. He instead attended Emory University in Atlanta, which had one of the most highly respected medical training programs in the South. It was during college that he left the Catholic Church “over its continued opposition to birth control and abortion.”
During his medical internship at Akron General Hospital in Ohio, the military announced that all available doctors would be drafted after the completion of their internships to serve in the Vietnam War. At this time, he already had a wife and two young daughters, and wanted to keep their family together. Rather than be drafted for two years and sent to war, he volunteered to enlist for three years, allowing him to work in Germany and bring his family along.
When Dr. Bass finished serving his three years in the Army, he and his family moved to Seattle so that he could complete his psychiatry residency at the University of Washington and so that the family had nearby access to downhill skiing, which had become a favorite pastime of theirs while living in Europe. When his residency was over, he set up a private psychiatry practice in Bellevue, Washington. That is where he and his wife raised their two daughters.
Dr. Bass highlights that their decision to stop having children after their two daughters were born was not haphazard:
Sometime in the 1960s, after the birth of our first child, my wife and I became aware of Zero Population Growth and thought that the organization’s arguments were valid. We were young and could not financially contribute to its work, but decided that we would have only two children. After our second child reached the age of four, we revisited and re-confirmed our thinking—at which time I had a vasectomy, since it was a far simpler and more reliable procedure than a tubal ligation for her.
In 1998, Dr. Bass retired after 25 years in his psychiatric practice. He felt that the “continually increasing paperwork and regulations became too onerous.” Since then, he has been able to focus on his personal passions: skiing, cycling, and volunteering at a local bicycle club.
When climate change became widely recognized as a real and pressing problem in the late 2000s, he remembered ZPG and had the following thought:
An unrecognized, or at least unpublicized, primary contributor to global warming is our continued, out-of-control worldwide population growth. I decided to see if ZPG still existed, found that it was now called Population Connection, investigated the organization, liked what I learned, and became a supporter.
He maintains optimism about the future of the planet by learning about the efforts of organizations working toward gender equality and environmental preservation. The visionary young woman Malala Yousafzai is particularly inspirational to him. Her organization, The Malala Fund, works to ensure that all girls receive at least 12 years of quality education.
I am convinced that the key to world peace lies with the women of the world, beginning with the education of young girls and continuing with the empowerment of women, for which birth control access is an absolute necessity. One of my favorite quotes now is Malala’s: “Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” Because of her organization, yours, and others with a similar mission, I remain optimistic for the world’s future, despite our current national situation.
There is something contagious about a rational mind expressing hope in what seems like a dark time. Dr. Bass’s optimism has touched many staff members here and continues to remind us to keep the vision of achieving Population Connection’s goals in the forefront of our thoughts each day as we do the slow work that eventually leads to big changes. This organization has always been about the long game, and it’s fortifying for us to have so many members like Dr. Bass who are far-sighted enough to see the value in a movement that doesn’t often provide instant gratification.
We believe in a future where people only have the children they want to have, the quality of life for everyone everywhere is high, wildlife thrives, and the natural world is healthy and balanced. Like Dr. Bass, and many of our loyal supporters, we have faith in humankind and will continue working towards realizing our dream of a people and planet in balance, regardless of the obstacles that may arise.
The President’s Circle recognizes supporters who contribute $1,000 or more in a year. To become a member of this giving society, please contact Jennifer Lynaugh, Director of Individual Giving, at (202) 974-7710 or firstname.lastname@example.org.