by Kirby LindsayOn Tuesday, March 22nd, the Rotary Club of Fremont welcomed Congressman Jim McDermott as speaker at the weekly meeting. The Rotary Club (also known as The Fremont Fun Club) meets upstairs in the banquet room at Hale’s Ales Brewery, and usually has a modest turnout, but this time the room filled to capacity, to hear Congressman McDermott, who spoke entirely on universal health care for all.
The Congressman initiated his comments with the acknowledgment that he has been to a lot of Rotary club gatherings, “but never at a pub,” or a meeting, “that starts with beer.” His wife has traveled with Rotary trip to help eradicate polio (one of the primary focuses of Rotary International, and he is pleased at the Fremont Rotary water project, for a village in the Sudan. He has seen, in person, the improvements made possible by clean water projects. “I’ve seen child diarrhea deaths lowered 80% by fresh water,” reported the former practicing physician.
He observed that March 23, 2011 marked the 1st anniversary of the U.S. health care law. To bring health care to a country as diverse as ours, Congressman McDermott explained, two points must be considered – access (it must be universal/for all) and cost (a need for economy, as well as value and quality.)
The Congressman said that he thought President Obama did a good job pushing something through, especially in a congress where every member has their own idea. Ultimately though, he explained, it is “a bill in progress.” He described it like building a house, with a foundation and building a shell. “Now,” he said, “we argue about what the walls and the fixtures should be.”
Questions & Concerns Addressed
After his opening comments, he took questions. Most addressed the health care issue directly but those that touched on other topics, including budget cuts and tort reform, were brought back to health care by the Congressman.
The first question asked how universal health care could be enforced, and how the Federal Government will know if citizens maintain health insurance? Congressman McDermott said proof would be requested along with submission of each citizen’s income tax return.
The second question asked why a ‘bill in progress’ would need to be “2000 pages,” and about the hidden agendas within it? Congressman McDermott agreed the bill does include hidden items. “Everyone wants the playfield level, but slanted toward them,” he stated. He then explained that the length also reflects a struggle in Congress to dictate how the administration should implement the bill.
Congressman McDermott quoted Winston Churchill as saying, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.” The health care plan, as it stands, does the right thing, he said, but it will also need to be adapted. “I think we are going to be changing things over the next few years,” the Congressman acknowledged, just as Medicare, passed in 1964, has been amended every year since.
As the topic of questions drifted to other matters, someone asked about the partisanship atmosphere prevailing today. Congressman McDermott responded that, “things can’t keep going the way they are going.” As for reaching critical mass, “I think we are already there,” he said, “There are going to have to be changes, and they are going to be tough.” He went on to say that a past acknowledgement of ‘the common good,’ has been lost among the American public. “Everyone is saying, ‘I can’t do anymore,’” he said.
After a few more questions – his visit lasted about half an hour – the Congressman had to leave but he did promise, “I will come again, when I can stay and drink a beer.”
Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming
After the presentation, the Rotary Club of Fremont conducted regular business, including announcement of an upcoming work party, at History House, to assemble books for Northwest Harvest. They also sent around a tray to collect the pocket change from meeting attendees towards funding Polio Plus.
A student ambassador came to report on her experiences during her visit in Seattle, but the ambassador, from Japan, focused instead on sharing news, and impressions, on family and friends during the recent tragedies. Visitors from other Rotary clubs also gave reports, and information, on upcoming fundraisers and work projects.
Meanwhile, in the background during the entire meeting – and dinner - a slide show projected on a screen showed recent Fremont Rotary projects, including installation the week before of “yellow swings” at four area parks. When Rotary Club of Fremont president, Todd Holec, finally closed the meeting, a little late, the common good appeared to still have a fair number of supporters.
©2011 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.