By guest blogger, Larry McAndrews, N.A.C.H. President & CEO
Standing in line to enter the auditorium at the Department of Interior to hear President Obama on the signing of the health care reform bill, I stood among those that had interrupted their normal schedule to be a part of this historic occasion. In line with me were the former State Senate Majority Leader from North Carolina Anthony Rand and the Connecticut Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan. We recalled where we were and what we were doing when health reform failed under the Clinton administration. We speculated on what the next steps were and the challenges facing the country to pay for the new guarantees of health care. As I looked around, I saw fellow association executives and hill staffers that were also working on health reform in 1992 when I came to Washington to be a part of the reform debate. I appreciated the many people who for many years had worked hard to bring about where we were today.
Inside the auditorium there were warm up speeches from Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in anticipation of the President and his entourage. When Vice President Biden finally introduced the President in very historic terms, those in attendance were rewarded for their years of work and dedication as they witnessed the President officially enacting the bill. The thoughts of all those present, no doubt, reflected on their good fortune to have had some part in the long journey. Success has many fathers and mothers, and I am sure each of us were claiming some little piece, recognizing in our hearts that we were supported by many in our own organizations who were not present but in truth should have been.
The President spoke to hopes and aspirations, and the boundlessness of the country’s creative power. Vice President Biden spoke to erecting the final girder in the structure of support for the least among us. My thoughts were, yes, it is good that we commit to health care for all our citizens but my focus was on to the next chapter: pay for the entitlements promised; promote a vibrant economy; improve productivity; and leave to our children a sound and prospering country. Perhaps it is true that the final girder has been put in place. As a nation we now strive to balance all of our competing priorities. While our imagination may be limitless, we will nevertheless be in a race with the limits of our resources.
As I left, looking for a taxi, I saw Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), on the street corner, with a small following. At 83 years of age, having served for 53 years, after following in the footsteps of his father, Rep. Dingell introduced health care reform legislation continuously year after year. Even on crutches, as he signed autographs, his persistence shined through. Is it not wonderful? Is not America great? Can we not succeed?