This morning I had a doctor’s appointment at Kaiser. I was sitting in the waiting room when the CBS special report came on the TV announcing that the President of the United States was making a speech before he signed into law historic legislation to reform how health care is delivered in this country.
All the hum of talk died down and everyone turned toward the television. “It’s about time,” said one. “Them Southern states are gonna fight it,” said another. “Let ’em try,” chimed in some one else. “Is this gonna help with my mother’s prescriptions?” somebody asked. And the whole room cried out, “Yes!”
When President Obama finally signed the bill (and signed and signed and signed it with all those “historic” pens), everyone sitting around me gave a little cheer — nurses, patients, doctors, janitors, everybody.
In the President’s speech today, he thanked YOU. Because it’s been the push from every corner of the country that kept health care reform from dying. It’s not a perfect bill. It’s not universal coverage. It leaves out the undocumented workers among us. But in order to build a new house, you first have to pour a foundation. That’s what this bill is — a solid foundation on which to build. I know you all are working hard out there on many issues that you care about. But take a moment to savor this change and to drink in a President of the United States telling you thanks for your good work. Here’s an excerpt from his speech:
After a century of striving, after a year of debate, after a historic vote, health care reform is no longer an unmet promise. It is the law of the land. It is the law of the land. And although it may be my signature that’s affixed to the bottom of this bill, it was your work, your commitment, your unyielding hope that made this victory possible. When the special interests deployed an army of lobbyists, an onslaught of negative ads, to preserve the status quo, you didn’t give up. You hit the phones and you took to the streets. You mobilized and you organized. You turned up the pressure and you kept up the fight. When the pundits were obsessing over who was up and who was down, you never lost sight of what was right and what was wrong. You knew this wasn’t about the fortunes of a party — this was about the future of our country.
And when the opposition said this just wasn’t the right time, you didn’t want to wait another year, or another decade, or another generation for reform. You felt the fierce urgency of now. You met the lies with truth. You met cynicism with conviction. Most of all, you met fear with a force that’s a lot more powerful — and that is faith in America. You met it with hope. Despite decades in which Washington failed to tackle our toughest challenges, despite the smallness of so much of what passes for politics these days, despite those who said that progress was impossible, you made people believe that people who love this country can still change it. So this victory is not mine — it is your victory. It’s a victory for the United States of America.
For two years on the campaign trail, and for the past year as we’ve worked to reform our system of health insurance, it’s been folks like you who have propelled this movement and kept us fixed on what was at stake in this fight. And rarely has a day gone by that I haven’t heard from somebody personally — whether in a letter, or an email, or at a town hall — who’s reminded me of why it was so important that we not give up; who reminded me why we could not quit. …
Now, as long a road as this has been, we all know our journey is far from over. There’s still the work to do to rebuild this economy. There’s still work to do to spur on hiring. There’s work to do to improve our schools and make sure every child has a decent education. There’s still work to do to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. There’s more work to do to provide greater economic security to a middle class that has been struggling for a decade. So this victory does not erase the many serious challenges we face as a nation. Those challenges have been allowed to linger for years, even decades, and we’re not going to solve them all overnight.
But as we tackle all these other challenges that we face, as we continue on this journey, we can take our next steps with new confidence, with a new wind at our backs — because we know it’s still possible to do big things in America — because we know it’s still possible to rise above the skepticism, to rise above the cynicism, to rise above the fear; because we know it’s still possible to fulfill our duty to one another and to future generations. So, yes, this has been a difficult two years. There will be difficult days ahead. But let us always remember the lesson of this day — and the lesson of history — that we, as a people, do not shrink from a challenge. We overcome it. We don’t shrink from our responsibilities. We embrace it. We don’t fear the future. We shape the future. That’s what we do. That’s who we are. That makes us the United States of America.
Read the whole address here.