Thursday, March 25

Dear Mr. President: Learning from the Past

Portrait of President Harry S.Image via Wikipedia

Dear President Obama,

You promised change and you have begun to deliver on that promise. By signing the Health Care bill, you have given people who have gone without health insurance the opportunity to be healthier and those who have been ill, the ability to once again have access to care without the onus of becoming bankrupt. And these are good steps.

Harry Truman believed that all Americans should have access to health care as a right and Lyndon Johnson signed legislation that allowed the elderly and the poor to have access. With uncertainties in the economy, it is impossible to know when any of us will be without work for extended periods of time. So thank you and Congress for making this first step.

Having said this, can a for-profit health insurance industry ever really sustain affordable health care for all? Chances are there will be future trade-offs to improve what has been signed into law. More important, will the need for health care providers be met and incentivized? Access to health care is great, but it also requires enough doctors, nurses and other allied health practitioners to be trained.

Beyond health, there is a general unease in the country. A general belief that we are in over our heads financially and, perhaps, politically. From the local school board to D.C., the message is one of "live within our means." The problem is, we as Americans have made bad investments--in the stock market, in banking, and in wars.

If ever there was a need for the type of leadership that people thought they would get by electing you is crucial, now is that time. FDR had it right with his fireside chats. He understood that people were distrustful of their government, but desired a personal connection to their elected Commander-In-Chief. In the age of the 24 hour news cycle, I do not know how it is possible to command the national stage like FDR did, but I do know that you can and must make every effort.

And you need support. I don't know why it is impossible for political adversaries to put party aside in doing the people's business at this very difficult period of our history, but it is clear that there can be no good that comes out of selfish, petty party politics. The same is true of grassroots movements that are short on solutions and long on vitriol.

The one thing that is certain is we only have one President at a time and that person deserves our respect regardless of whether we agree with all of his or her decisions. Conversely, the person in office must convey to the American people where he or she feels we are going and their roadmap to help us get there. You are a particularly gifted communicator. Communicate.

Musician Pete Seeger has a saying on his banjo that says "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender." Those of us who value moving forward with hope need to be rallied to oppose those who are living in fear of what our country will become. The late Paul Wellstone said, "The people of this country, not special interest big money, should be the source of all political power. Government must remain the domain of the general citizenry, not a narrow elite." I think people on all ends of the political spectrum question whether this is the government we have.

I truly believe that those who question what has been happening in government mean well and are genuinely concerned for their and their children's future, but are allowing their uncertainty to cloud their thinking about what is best for the country. Ronald Reagan, for all of his faults, did one thing exceptionally well. He had the ability and gravitas to convince folks that the sun hadn't set on the USA--it is now your responsibility to remind all citizens that this is still true.

In faith,

Garry Klein
Popular Progressive

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