Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

President Obama’s Healthcare Speech

Sep 11, 2009

For the past several weeks, all we have been inundated with is negativity; a decline in President Obama’s approval ratings, scare tactics, weakening support for health reform and an overall sense of pessimism and frustration with regards to change. Pundits, critics and the like spent the month of August focusing on town hall uproars and the notion that this President, like many reformists before him, would fail in the battle for health coverage for every American. But unlike his predecessors, President Obama silently and diligently proceeded despite the vitriol and criticism, and then shut them all down with one historic, bold speech.

“I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last,” articulated Obama last Wednesday in front of Congress and the American people. Answering his critics directly, he passionately dismissed blatant lies like ‘death panels’, but continued to encourage bipartisan input and support. In an unprecedented move, he outlined a plan in which insurers could no longer deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, or drop people after they become ill. He addressed concerns from both the right and left, while intricately explaining his marketplace concept, costs for such health care reform and a projected timeframe for change to finally be implemented.

Single-handedly shifting the debate, President Obama has once again silenced doubters and brought the focus back on the real issue – an inadequate system that is failing the nation. A system where 14,000 Americans lose coverage every day, a system where individuals have died after being dropped for the most inane justifications and a system where the highest number of uninsured are between the ages of 18-29. We cannot continue to fail our youth who will be responsible to carry the baton for the sustainability of our country on every level.

During the civil, ever-pertinent speech by our President, there was an outburst by Republican Representative Joe Wilson that by now we are all unfortunately familiar with. This sort of disrespectful, unwarranted and ill-informed attack on Obama is in effect a reflection of a dwindling segment of the population that has no resort but to yell. Exhausted from fear mongering and a lack of solutions, Americans themselves are no longer giving in to this type of hate, and they are ready, willing and able to stand behind the President.

The day after Obama’s impassioned speech, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll showed that 2/3 of those surveyed said they supported Obama’s health care proposals, and about one in seven changed their minds on his ideas. Unfortunately, by Thursday, the number of uninsured also rose to nearly 46.3 million as a result of our continued recession. As more and more people lose their jobs, or are forced to take jobs without health benefits, the people cannot be fooled any longer. As they watch family members suffer or die due to a lack of adequate care, the people are adamant in their support for reform.

I echo our President’s steadfastness and continued call for action. Just as Medicare revamped health care for our seniors, it is high time to deliver the same amenities to all of our citizenry. As Obama aptly stated: “That large-heartedness – that concern and regard for the plight of others – is not a partisan feeling. It is not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character.” And it’s time to sustain our character.