While some of the speakers were the expected officials from the sponsors,like Andy Stern, President of the SEIU, and L. Toni Lewis, SEIU Executive Board member and President of the SEIU's Committee on Interns and Residents, there was also an assortment of elected officials and normal people on hand to call for health care reform and to compare Barack Obama's positions and votes on health care to those of John McCain.
Guess which one comes up short in that comparison. :))
Anyway, back to the list of eminent officials. Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-CA) was one of the early speakers, talking about efforts to make health care more accessible and why that hasn't been accomplished yet.
"Why can't we get it done? Because we have lobbyists in the White House" writing health care laws and policy.
Also lending his presence was the man who is currently the longest-serving member of the House, Congressman John Dingell (D-MI). He focused on highlighting the records of George W. Bush and John McCain on health care for all Americans (hint: they have horrible records) and urging everyone present to help elect Democrats across the board.
"Obama will be a great president, but he can't do this alone - he needs your help" by giving him stronger majorities in both the House and Senate (especially getting 60 votes in the Senate!)
One of the lower profile guests, but one who was one of the highlights of the forum, was the brief talk by Pauline Beck, the home health care worker that hosted Barack Obama as he spent a day in her shoes. (SF Chronicle coverage here) She spoke highly of Sen. Obama, both of his work ethic and his compassion. While before meeting Obama she was a Hillary Clinton supporter
Note: She spoke at the convention; her remarks as prepared for delivery are here.
Another low profile but effective speaker was 13-year old Graeme Frost. Last year, he delivered the Democrats' weekly radio address on SCHIP and how it benefitted him when he and his sister were severely injured in a car accident. At the time, he urged President Bush to sign a just-passed renewal of SCHIP.
He vetoed it.
However, that wasn't good enough for the Republicans - they "Swift Boated" him and his family. (A refutation of the Reps' smears is here, courtesy Time Magazine.)
Anyway, Graeme earned a standing ovation from the nearly 1000 attendees when he closed his talk with "the only hope for SCHIP [renewal and improvement] is if Senators Obama and Biden are elected to the White House."
Other, higher-profile, speakers included Governors Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS), Ed Rendell (D-PA), Deval Patrick (D-MA), and Ted Strickland (D-OH).
Former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle spoke passionately about the four steps necessary to successfully implement national health care reform - first, understand the nature of the problem, including the issues with access, cost, and quality; second, destroy the myths and lies that suffuse the discussion of health care reform (starting with "we do *not* have the best health care system in the world"); third, build a framework of transparency, with an apolitical decision-making board; and finally, get focused and go on offense - instead of defending health care reform, make opponents "explain why the status quo is good enough"
After that was a brief period of stalling while the organizers awaited their marquee guest, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Finally, traffic cleared long enough for the Senator to make it over to the forum (and believe me, the traffic was lousy in downtown Denver on Wednesday).
She strongly and eloquently advocated for health care for all Americans, "no exceptions, no excuses."
She talked of technological improvements and modernization (healthcare information card, involving all stakeholders, not just the big insurers, and simply "making the case" for healthcare reform.
She reminded the audience that "[w]e have let the perfect be the enemy of the good for too long" and not to let petty objections derail efforts to produce a workable plan.
She closed the forum with a simple yet passionate unity message -
"Let's elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden!"
Other highlights from Wednesday -
- Clinton's incredible Tuesday night speech was the talk of the Colorado Convention Center on Wednesday, but after people finished raving about her speech, they immediately referred to the crowd pleasing address of Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT), given just prior to HRC's, and said simply, "WOW."
- Perhaps I'm the only one who thinks this, but it seems to me that Wednesday's huge ovation at the Pepsi Center when President Bill Clinton was introduced was the delegates' way of saying "Come back to the light, Bill, we still love you" and his speech was his way of doing just that. There may still be some disaffected HRC supporters who will go over to McCain rather than vote for Obama, but they'll be few in number and doing so in spite of HRC's (and Bill's!) wishes.
- Democrats in the Plains states have two eloquent rising stars in Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin of South Dakota and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Both spoke to the Rural Caucus on how Heartland issues are national issues (trade, education, healthcare) and on the importance of increasing Democratic turnout in rural areas. Herseth-Sandlin mentioned that she was inspired/mentored by Tom Daschle, while Klobuchar showed why the former prosecutor was mentioned by the New York Times as one of the seventeen women most likely to become President.
Note: with all due respect to Sen. Klobuchar, I'm kinda partial to one of the other women mentioned in the article, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. :)
- After the healthcare forum, I was interviewed by Melissa Blasius of Phoenix's Channel 12 News (apparently, I was the only attendee from Arizona, or the only one who would admit to it). My answers were a little weak (OK, they were almost goofy), so I hope the footage isn't used.
It was still cool though. :))