This past weekend, State Representative Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo received the Michigan Nurses Association ‘Friend of Nursing’ Award in recognition of his advocacy on safe patient care and other issues that support nurses and their profession. The MNA is the largest union and professional association representing direct-care registered nurses in Michigan and they recognized Hoadley for his strong commitment to standing with both nurses and patients to ensure that nurses are able to provide the best care possible. The award is the MNA’s highest award given to an elected or public official who has shown outstanding support of the nursing profession and legislative initiatives that advance nurses’ role in health care.
“My fellow nurses and I really appreciate Representative Hoadley’s commitment to making sure RNs are able to give every patient the best care possible,” said Jamie Brown, RN and President of the Borgess Medical Center Staff Nurse Council. “I want to thank him for advocating for registered nurses and supporting us so we can do an even better job of advocating for our patients.”
“We often hear legislators to say that they appreciate and support nurses, but Jon has shown he is willing to go beyond words and put his advocacy into action,” said MNA Executive Director John Karebian. “He understands that when it comes to patient care and safer hospitals, people are more important than profits. Although Jon is new to Lansing, he has made a strong impression with his enthusiasm and commitment to forging bipartisan solutions.”
At the convention where the award was bestowed upon him, Hoadley gave a truly inspiring speech, one which referenced his friend Jake Brewer, a well-known progressive activist who was tragically killed in a bicycle accident last month. The speech is so good that I took the time to transcribe and that transcription follows the video of his speech it below (all errors are mine.)
This wasn’t like the typical speech that I usually do. You know, I give you a legislative update and you would be fine and you’d be like, “Oh, that’s what’s happening in Lansing.” Spoiler alert: not a lot yet. We’re still working on that.
But I did want to share a story about my one of my friends who died two weeks ago. It’s an odd way to start a pep rally speech, I suppose, but I want to tell you a little bit about my friend Jake Brewer. You probably don’t know Jake but you’re familiar with who he is and the work he does. Jake was 34-years old when he was participating in one of those bicycle-a-thons for charity kind of things to fight cancer. It wasn’t for his cancer, he was fighting for someone else, and his bike veered out of control into oncoming traffic. He was struck and he was killed.
Jake was 34-years old. He leaves behind a wife, Mary Katharine, a daughter, Georgia, and, in fact, Mary Katharine is pregnant with their next child, as well. It’s tragic. And the thing that makes it worse is that Jake is one of the people that really had a spark to bring us together as a country.
The reason that I say you might be familiar with Jake’s work is that, if you’ve ever seen one of those Change.org petitions, he was there and he was the guy that would help the decision makers who were being targeted in those petitions actually solve the problem. So after they got 10,000 or 20,000 emails, Jake’s the guy who would pick up the phone and say to the CEO, “You know, you’ve got a problem. Would you like some help solving that?”
Jake was one of the guys who was a founding father in digital democracy. He believed in the powers of networks to solve problems. And, in fact, he was so well-regarded that, in May, he was hired by the White House to be the senior policy analyst to our Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.
This is a guy that thought big. And this is a guy that genuinely loved people. It didn’t matter your political or ideological bent, Jake cared about you, even if he didn’t know you. That’s what made me fall in such appreciation of Jake. He believed that what unites us is more important than anything that divides us. In fact, he believed that so much that his wife Mary Katharine is actually a Republican analyst for Fox News! Yeah, so talk about a “red and blue” household!
But he loved seeing people get involved and that’s the reason I want to bring it up today and I want to honor Jake’s memory. Because he believed that if you had a conviction, he wanted you to act on it. And he wanted to join in in helping you with solving that problem. Because he didn’t believe in living life on the sidelines. He wanted to be out on the field. And he believed that all of us make a difference in the world.
When Jake died, his mother was in charge – because Mary Katharine had to stay home with Georgia – his mother was in charge of clearing out his desk at the White House. I just can’t even imagine what that must have been like for her to have to go in there and do that. I know that because of the work you do you see families deal with this all the time. But for me it’s still really fresh. So, I think about what that must have been like for her going in to clean out his desk. But this is what motivated me to think about this speech: When she got there, she takes a picture of his desktop monitor because it has a sticky note on it. The fact that his mom stopped to take a picture of a sticky note and then send it to his friends, that was really interesting. On that sticky note it said – it had three words – it said, “Cultivate the Karass.”
So, I didn’t know what a Karass was but it’s actually from Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 work Cat’s Cradle and what it means – I’m ging to read the definition – “A Karass is a network or group of people who, unknown to themselves, are somehow affiliated or linked specifically to fulfull the will of God.” I’m going to read it one more time: “A Karass is a network or group of people who, unknown to themselves, are somehow affiliated or linked specifically to fulfull the will of God.”
So, I met Jake through my friends on the internet. It was literally an email chain that turned into more emails that turned into hanging out that turned into working on projects together that turned into a lifelong friendship and sharing ideas about how we could use digital democracy to change the world. Because he thought he could change the world. He somehow thought that this whole group of folks that apparently he was cultivating was going to be able to change the world. And he believed it! I mean this is a guy that woke every morning thinking about, “What are we going to do to make life better?” Which also probably explains a quote that was on his desktop computer monitor. Of course Jake was probably one of those guys who had a clean desktop, right?! I don’t know about yours buy mine is cluttered with files and filenames. But he wanted to see one quote and it’s from our president, President Barack Obama, and it said, “Every day we use all the tools we have to fight cynicism, to unlock the possible, and make life better for the American people and people around the world.”
And what I thought about this morning is that that’s why we’re all here, isn’t it? I mean, we dedicate ourselves to using all the tools we have to fight cynicism, to unlocking the possible, and making life better for people in our communities. When you see a patient, I know that you don’t see what political party they belong to, their ideology. You don’t ask them about a particular issue before you help them. You don’t care about their race or their gender. You are there to treat a patient because you believe that ALL people can make a difference. You see patients as human beings. And when you do your job, the world is better for it.
There was probably a nurse helping Jake. And, as nurses you know that there’s just no act of compassion that’s too small, especially when what the family is going through is just so big. And I think that’s really true about democracy, too. There’s no act of involvement that’s too small when the work that we have to do together is just so big. There’s higher purpose to our work.
As I’m sure you know, the Safe Patient Care Act has been introduced in the past legislative sessions and it hasn’t made it into law. That’s why I have the pleasure of getting to reintroduce it. I just want to say that it’s a shame that we don’t have it yet because this is a simple act that would improve patient care, improve families, improve our work lives, to make sure that no one is being forced to care for someone when they have been overworked, over-scheduled and we want to provide the most important critical care that we can.
So, simply put, we all know that the Safe Patient Care Act puts appropriate limits on a number of people that can be assigned to one nurse and mandates mandatory overtime [pay]. In short, it’s a win for patients, it’s a win for nurses, and, frankly, if we’re being honest about it, it’s even going to be a win for hospitals because they’re going to end up seeing that they’ll have improved patient care.
Like I said, it’s really unfortunate that we don’t have this in law yet. But that doesn’t mean we’re giving up because, as you’ve heard, I’m proud to tell you that in the next few weeks we will be reintroducing this bill and with your help we’re going to fight for its passage, we’re going to get it heard in committee, and eventually we’re going to get this signed into law.
I want us to take a page – or a sticky note – out of Jake’s book. I want us to start cultivating our own Karass. I want you mixed up and affiliated in the lives of my legislative colleagues so that they understand that, even if they don’t know why this is happening, that patient care, that making sure that we’re protecting our workplaces is an important piece and they see it as part of the higher calling that we’re called to do to protect Michigan’s safety.
And I want you calling your legislators. I love getting those calls. I want you to pull out your phone in the next few weeks and call in about this bill. I want you making sure that we’re sharing our stories about why this matters. Because when you do, it actually does. I am surprised every day that when I work with your fantastic lobbying team that we find more people and everyone has a story. And it’s not always just them. It’s because somebody in their life they know is a nurse and that person left the state because they couldn’t get a good workplace. They find out that there’s someone in their life that a nurse cared for and they realized how overworked we are and they wonder, “Did my mother get the absolute best care that she could have?” And not because of the nurses but because we’re being asked to do too much when the need is so high. We have stories to share and they need someone to tell them to. So, when you call, you’re a huge part of that.
And when the bill comes up for committee, in a hearing in the committee – we’re really hopeful that this is the year we can do that – that you show up. And it’s hard. I’ve done this sort of thing before where you’re being asked to be very vulnerable for a moment and say, “I do a damn good job. But I need help to do the best job I can for every single patient every single time when the system is stacked me.” So, if we’re going to get this law passed, we’re going to do it by working together.
America is really built on a land where struggle built opportunity. One of the things that I think we take away from our American History lessons is that we’re always better when we’re united rather than divided. So I know we’re going to have some conversations today. I know there’s a lot of things happening but I hope that the lesson that we take away when we are finished with this gathering today is that we have an opportunity to be united. What are we going to do with this chance to be together here today? I invite you to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity. You are all amazing people in one amazing room and we should never lose sight of that.
So, I want you to actually take a minute – I’m sure you did this before – just look to your left, look to your right. I want you to look around, don’t look at me. I’m still seein’ your eyes, you’re not doing what I’m saying’! You’re going to make big decisions. I get that. But you’re all here because you care. If there’s ever a reminder that life isn’t fair, it’s hearing about what happened to Jake. If you ever need a reminder of how this network of folks who somehow pull together to make a difference, I invite you to think of two things.
The first is that, the day after the tragedy, some of his friends got together and said, “Hey, how are we going to provide for Jake’s kids so they can go to college?” And can you believe that they set the audacious goal of saying, “Can we raise $200,000? You know, $25,000 a year to go to college these days for four years for two kids, that’s $200,000. Can we help raise that over the next month to really put them in a good space?”
Well, they did. And they did that in 24 hours. And then, I just checked it this morning, since then they’ve now raised a total of $420,000 from over 5,400 people. Those people didn’t all know Jake, they didn’t all know his family. But they got, somehow, a group of folks linked together, mixed up in each others lives, to fill a higher purpose.
So, you’re all in this Karass together. We are mixed up in each others lives now because we have a higher purpose that we need to do. And you looked around this room because you know that everybody that’s sitting here shares those same values that you do.
As my friend Jenny said, “Jake dreamed big and believed not only in his dreams but he believed in yours, too.
I close by saying, what are you going to do to fight cynicism? What are you going to do to unlock the possible? What are you going to do to make your dreams, our dreams come true? We can do amazing things when we work together. Thank you for being a part of a solution and thank you so much for being here today.
[Photos of Jon Hoadley by Anne C. Savage for the Michigan Nurses Association, used with permission.]