Yesterday morning, Organizing for America (OFA) held an event at the Ann Arbor Community Center to thank Congressmen John Dingell (MI-15) and Mark Schauer (MI-07) for their leadership and votes on the recently-enacted health insurance reform law. The two men represent opposite ends of Congressional spectrum. Congressman Dingell has served longer than any current member of the House of Representatives. Congressman Schauer is still in his first term.
While the event was held to thank them, both legislators emphatically thanked US — their staff, their volunteers, OFA and everyone who kept the faith, made the calls, wrote the letters and talked to their neighbors over the past nine months when the path to health insurance reform was being navigated.
Just under 200 people attended OFA’s event and they ranged from young children to state and local politicians. We had the mayor of Ann Arbor John Hieftje, state legislators including the Speaker Pro Tempore Pam Byrnes, Ann Arbor city council members, Washtenaw county commissioners and candidates for a whole range of offices.
Conan Smith, the chair of the Ann Arbor Democrats started the celebration off. Conan is married to the state Representative from Ann Arbor Rebekah Warren and is a dynamic speaker. He recognized the many dignitaries who were in attendance and thanked OFA and all of the volunteers who helped make health insurance reform a reality.
Conan introduced the local OFA Regional Field Director Chris Wolff. Chris told the audience how OFA had been effective throughout the entire process of getting health insurance reform passed into law and talked about OFA’s importance as we tackle more issues like a clean energy economy, financial reform, and jobs and how big a role OFA volunteers will play as we move into the November mid-terms. He invited the audience to get involved and clipboards were circulated.
Chris then introduced me as the OFA Community Organizer for Ann Arbor. I was given the honor of introducing my Congressman, Mark Schauer.
Congressman Schauer talked about the importance of this vote and spent time thanking the members of the audience who had supported his candidacy and then continued to work to help support him on this issue and others.
He spoke of his roots as a grassroots organizer and asked me to stand up and show the “Community Organizer” shirt I was wearing. He then condemned Sarah Palin for her derision whenever she mentions community organizers. Community organizing is the heart and soul of getting things done in this country and people that are involved in this noble task should be thanked, not derided.
Congressman Schauer then talked about his vote on health insurance reform. He told the crowd, “I think we all know that I’m in one of the toughest districts for a Democrat in the whole country. Let’s admit it: I’ve got a target painted on my back.” At this point Congressman Dingell chimed in to say, “You’ve got one painted on your FRONT, too!”
Mr. Schauer went on: “If I lose my job because of this vote, a vote that will help tens of millions of Americans without health care, if I lose my job because of that, I won’t lose one minute of sleep because I know that we did the right thing for this country and for all Americans.“
Congressman Schauer then went on to introduce the Dean of the House of Representatives, Congressman John Dingell.
On health care, there has been no greater champion, no one who has been more of a conscience of this country and of people who have fallen through the cracks, than John Dingell.
We’re a beautiful party as Democrats, we’re a pretty diverse party as Democrats. While we have a large majority, it’s certainly not been a slam dunk to find and build that consensus within our Democratic ranks. Because the Republicans decided early on that their agenda was to make Barack Obama and the Democrats fail. So we had to do it on our own…
I will never forget the two or three or four times [we had to vote on this legislation]. And there were Democrats that said “let’s take baby steps, let’s do this piecemeal, let’s scale things back”. John Dingell could always be counted on to stand up within our caucus meetings at the exactly the right time and remind people who we are as Democrats and why we’re there. And remind people that we will be judged generations from now by the decision that we make now. And John Dingell talked about what happened in 1993 when Democrats failed and also reminded us about the political consequences. You voted for something in 2008 and you worked for something in 2008 and it certainly wasn’t to have Democrats fail to pass health care reform.
So this is the man who taught me because I borrowed a little bit of that when I was talking to my freshman colleagues. “Remember why you ran for Congress. Remember why you’re here. And remember who you have to account to back in your districts.”
But it was this man who was our conscience and our guide throughout this process. And it’s no coincidence that when Speaker Pelosi gaveled the vote on the passage of national health care reform, she used the same gavel that John Dingell used to gavel the approval of Medicare.
Like Congressman Schauer before him, Congressman Dingell spent a great deal of time thanking US. He also spoke of his own history with health care reform.
I want to say to all of you, I’ve been hacking around on this health care insurance matter for 54 YEARS! My dad started on it in 1935 with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I think that he is looking down and saying to all of us, “Fellas, well done!”
I’ve been working on this for 54 years, but I couldn’t do it until Mark Schauer came along!
He went on to give us, the grassroots community organizers and volunteers and phone bankers and canvassers, his thanks.
You and my other Democratic friends made that happen. So I want you all to pat yourself on the back. And if you find that hard to do, reach around and pat your neighbor on the back! You’re entitled to take some bows because this would not have happened without you and a lot of other Democrats.
Congressman Dingell personally thanked Ann Arbor Dems chair Conan Smith, Washtenaw Democratic Party Chair Stu Dowty. He then went on to talk about the process of passing this legislation and why it’s important to Democrats for the future.
It was hard. It was like “The Perils of Pauline”. We watched this thing come near the brink of disaster time after time. And there are things in there that none of us would have ever put in and I’d have written a much different bill. But we had the sense to come together behind a bill and to support a great Democratic president. And we have given him things that mean something to our people. We have given him a health bill which is a tremendous and important good for our nation.
[With this health bill we are addressing the fact that] health insurance is going to cost the ordinary American family $25,000 a year within ten years. That puts cold chills down my spine. I’m not clear how Deborah and I could afford that and I know that millions of Americans can not. And I know the nation can not tolerate that. And the health and the competitiveness and the well-being of the country won’t sustain that. So that is one of the things you have done and I hope you’re proud.
You know, when I showed up in the Congress in the last days that we voted on this legislation, I saw something that you see in the Congress and this is a sense of great excitement — an awareness that we were going to do something great. And you could see it in the behavior of all the Democrats. You could also see it in the faces of my Republican colleagues who had a nasty, sour look. But I found the sentiment that I saw there to rank with the sentiment I saw when we passed the Civil Rights bill of 1964 which changed the character of this nation. And I saw something there that I saw when we passed Medicare. There’s a sense in the Congress that those things are great and you could see it in the behavior of people and the attitude of the folks in the galleries and the way the Congress moves and the way the people look at each other. And the way that old members come back to the chamber and members of the Senate come over to be with us in a moment they played an important role. And the staff members who appear on the floor and the family members who go up in the gallery to see a great event happen.
I want you to understand YOU did it and YOU made it possible. You not only supported good candidates but you showed the patience and the understanding when they were trying to do things that are hard for us as progressives and liberals to accept. But which were important as a part of this strange compromise process that puts legislation together. And you saw something else. You saw that when this legislation was completed, it was GOOD. It is going to work. It is going to save lives, it’s going to be better for the economy, and it’s going to help thousands of people, young, old, and all other kinds. And you’re going to find a little bit of something else there that’s going to be important. And that is that we’re going to now have the basis of doing the things that we need to do in other areas while we assemble the organization the administration of that law.
Finally, I just want to note here, I see some people with signs that say “Thank You” and “Healthcare”. I want to say “Bless you!” because you’re speaking the thoughts of all of us. Thank you.
To conclude the event, the chair of the University of Michigan College Dems, Brendan Campbell, and OFA liaison, Amanda Caldwell presented the two Congressmen with large cards prepared by the College Dems. It should be noted that the College Dems made over 4,000 calls for health insurance reform in a single day on the day before the vote.
Those of use from Congressional Districts 7 and 15 felt blessed to have these two men attend our celebration. It was an historical piece of legislation and there’s simply no question that Congressman Dingell has been a critical advocate of it from the beginning. Here are a few extra photos.
Slideshow with many more photos:
Please Digg this blog entry HERE. Thanks.
I’m just sayin’…
All images taken by Anne C. Savage (except the one of her). Please do not use images without permission. Visit Anne’s website, Anne Savage Photography HERE.
The Flickr photo set of the images can be found HERE.
The slideshow can be viewed separately HERE.