“Well, it’s good to be back in Nashville!” President Obama said Wednesday afternoon at Taylor Stratton Elementary School in Madison. “I like Nashville. I don’t know if you noticed, I come back here quite a bit.” It was Obama’s third official visit to the Music City within an 18 month span.
Our 44th President of the United States (POTUS) had come to town to talk about healthcare, specifically the Affordable Care Act. POTUS chose Nashville and Tennessee for very specific reasons. About 70 people were invited to attend the event, many from the Nashville area who had written to him about the Affordable Care Act. Others at the event included doctors, nurses, other healthcare providers and leaders; Mayor Karl Dean, Congressman Jim Cooper, State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, State Senators Thelma Harper and Jeff Yarbro, and former U.S Senator Bill Frist.
Obama said, “Part of the reason we came to Tennessee — in addition to me just liking Nashville and liking the state, generally, is that Tennessee has a history of innovation when it comes to health care, doing some very creative stuff — health care professionals, doctors, nurses, hospitals and executives working alongside nonprofits and the public sector to make sure that people are getting the very best health care they can, and also being able to control costs in a sensible way. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the efforts of people like Jim who took some very tough votes, we now have about 166,000 Tennesseans who have health care who didn’t have it before. Folks like Kelly.”
Kelly Bryant had come onstage and introduced President Obama, recounting her bout with breast cancer, the way Healthcare.gov was a great thing for her, and how she never expected anyone, let alone the President, seeing the letter she’d written to him. “I am living proof of a President who listens and cares about the American people,” she said. Obama had brought the Madison resident to the event in his special presidential vehicle, nicknamed “the Beast.”
“In addition to being wonderful and somewhat feisty spirit, as I have learned, she also has the distinction of possibly being the first person ever to be picked up at her house by a presidential motorcade,” POTUS said of Kelly. “Which I thought was pretty cool. Well, it turned out it was so close to the school, so we said, well, we might as well just swing by and get her.” At the front door, he had said “Hey Kelly! How are you doing?” and shared a hug. Then he escorted her back to the Beast under his umbrella at a leisurely stroll, while she did most of the talking.
“Tennessee actually has been really innovative,” said Obama. “In fact, it won a $65 million grant for state innovation, where you’ve got hospitals and doctors and nurses and not-for-profits and other groups working together to figure out how can we, for example, identify potential diabetes patients early, make sure that they’re getting healthy quicker, preventing some of the worst elements of it. And even though it might involve a little extra spending on the front end, it turns out it saves hundreds of thousands of dollars on the back end; improves quality of life, improves quality of care, cuts costs, which is good for our economy, good for patients, and good for America.
“There are a whole host of things that fall under the Affordable Care Act that are benefitting 100 million, 150 million people. They just may not be aware of it. But what it’s done is it’s made health care stronger, more secure, and more reliable in America.
“So I’m feeling pretty good about how health care is going. And the thing I’ve never lost sight of, though, is that this is about people. This is not about politics, it’s not about Washington. It’s about families and loved ones, and the struggle and the fear that comes about when you have a serious illness and knowing that you’ve got not just your own family, but also a community that has your back.”
“With the Supreme Court case now behind us, … I’m hoping that what we can do is now focus on how we can make it even better.”
Among those who took advantage of the hour that POTUS opened the floor for questions, about anything, were Rev. Eric Brown with the Childrens’ Defense Fund and State Representative Brenda Gilmore.
Rep. Gilmore asked, “Do you have some strategies that you could share with us that we could encourage our Governor to stay on the journey and to continue to find solutions to present Insure Tennessee, and to bring some of our colleagues over on the other side so that we can take the politics out of it and help them to understand how important this is to the quality of life for Tennesseans?”
“I don’t presume to know as much as you do about Tennessee politics, so I will leave the expert advice to folks like Jim Cooper maybe,” said Obama said. ”But here’s the one thing I do know, is that elected officials respond to public opinion.”
Later Obama said, in concluding, “Part of what I’ve also tried to do is to say to the Republican Party: Open your hearts and think about the people here in Tennessee who are working hard, are struggling, and just need a little bit of help. And if we give them that help, it’s going to pay off over the long term. This will be a stronger state. Employment will be higher. Folks will be paying taxes. Everybody is going to prosper.
“We’re all in this together. That’s what I believe. When America is together and we have a certain generosity of spirit, even if we’re hard-headed about making sure stuff works right and we’re not wasting money, but we’re doing what is needed to give everybody a shot in life, that’s when America grows. That’s when we prosper.”