Full Text Obama Presidency June 9, 2015: First Lady Michelle Obama’s at Martin Luther King Jr. Preparatory High School Commencement Address Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady at Martin Luther King Jr. Preparatory High School Commencement Address

Source: WH, 6-9-15

Chicago State University Convocation Hall

Chicago, Illinois

7:44 P.M. CDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Wow!  (Applause.)  Yes!

STUDENT:  We love you so much, Michelle!

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, I love you guys!  (Applause.)  Look, I am beyond excited to be here with the winners of our first-ever FAFSA Video Challenge, the King College Prep Class of 2015!  (Applause.)

So let me just explain, because you all know some of the best schools in the country submitted videos for this challenge.  But when I saw your Scandal video, let me tell you, I was blown away.  I was just blown away with — amazing.  I was blown away by your creativity, but I was even more blown away by how hard you all worked to achieve your outstanding FAFSA completion rate here at KCP.  In fact, as you saw, I was so impressed that I decided to send your video to the cast of the real Scandal.  And they were so impressed that Shonda* Rhimes and Kerry Washington and the whole staff, they wanted to be a part of this graduation.  And I want to thank Libby, because she was the only one who knew.  She kept the secret.  So let’s give the cast of Scandal another round of applause.  Wasn’t that wonderful?  (Applause.)  That’s how special you all are.  That is just how special you all are.

And I want to thank Libby for that wonderful introduction.  I want to thank Jostens for their generosity.  And, of course, I want to honor the Pendleton family for their courage and their grace and their love.  I love these folks.  (Applause.)  Hadiya’s memory is truly a blessing and an inspiration to me and to my husband and to people across this country and around the world.  And we are so grateful for her family’s presence here tonight.  Love you all.  Love you so much.  (Applause.)

I also want to acknowledge President Watson, Provost Henderson, Jesse Ruiz, as well as the fabulous singers — way to go, guys!  (Applause.)  And our musicians, the best band in the land.  (Applause.)  And all of the amazing student speakers — you guys did such a phenomenal job.  You’re amazing.  (Applause.)

And of course, I want to give a big shoutout to Principal Narain for his outstanding leadership.  Yes.  (Applause.)  He made sure my speech was up here, so I thank him for that.  (Laughter.)  But also, to the phenomenal teachers, the administrators, the school counselors, the staff who pushed you, who inspired you, who hunted you down in the hallway to fill out your FAFSA forms — well done.  (Laughter and applause.)

And, graduates, I think we’ve got to give another show of love to the parents, the guardians, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, the siblings — (applause) — everyone else who has been there for you throughout your lives — the folks who shook you out of bed in the morning, and didn’t let you go to sleep until your homework was done; the folks who believed in you; the folks who sacrificed for you and loved you even when you drove them crazy.  Today is their day too.  Let’s give them a round of applause.  (Applause.)  Yes!  That’s it, blow kisses.  That’s right, mom.  Take your bow.

And of course, most of all, to the class of 2015 — you all, congratulations.  You did it!  You did it!  You are here!  You are here!   (Applause.)  And you all look so good, so glamorous, so handsome.  But just think about how hard you worked to make it to this day — stayed up late studying, working on those college essays, preparing for those ACTs.  I understand that you threw yourselves into your activities as well — the Jaguars won the Division 3A basketball regional championship.  (Applause.)  Pretty nice.  The best band in the land performed with Jennifer Hudson — really?  Jennifer Hudson?  J-Hud? — and at the NFL Draft.  (Applause.)  I hear you all lit up the stage with Shrek the Musical — (applause) — Spring Concert I heard was pretty nice.  But you all truly honored Dr. King’s legacy with your commitment to service-learning.

So, graduates, tonight, I am feeling so proud of you.  I am feeling so excited for you.  I am feeling so inspired by you.  But there is one thing that I’m not feeling right now, and that is surprised.  I am not at all surprised by how accomplished you all are.  (Applause.)  I’m not at all surprised by the dedication your teachers have shown, or by the sacrifices your families have made to carry you to this day.  I’m not surprised because I know this community.

I was born and raised here on the South Side, in South Shore, and I am who I am today because of this community.  (Applause.)  I know the struggles many of you face — how you walk the long way home to avoid the gangs.  How you fight to concentrate on your homework when there’s too much noise at home.  How you keep it together when your families are having hard times making ends meet.

But more importantly, I also know the strengths of this community.  I know the families on the South Side.  And while they may come in all different shapes and sizes, most families here are tight, bound together by the kind of love that gets stronger when it’s tested.

I know that folks on the South Side work hard — the kind of hard where you forget about yourself and you just worry about your kids, doing everything it takes — juggling two and three jobs, taking long bus rides to the night shift, scraping pennies together to sign those kids up for every activity you can afford — Park District program, the Praise Dance Ministries — whatever it takes to keep them safe and on the right track.  And I know that in this community, folks have a deep faith, a powerful faith, and folks are there for each other when times get hard, because we understand that “there but for the grace of God go I.”  (Applause.)

And over the past six years as First Lady, I’ve visited communities just like this one all across this country — communities that face plenty of challenges and crises, but where folks have that same strong work ethic, those same good values, those same big dreams for their kids.

But unfortunately, all those positive things hardly ever make the evening news.  Instead, the places where we’ve grown up only make headlines when something tragic happens — when someone gets shot, when the dropout rate climbs, when some new drug is ruining people’s lives.

So too often, we hear a skewed story about our communities — a narrative that says that a stable, hardworking family in a neighborhood like Woodlawn or Chatham or Bronzeville is somehow remarkable; that a young person who graduates from high school and goes to college is a beat-the-odds kind of hero.

Look, I can’t tell you how many times people have met my mother and asked her, “Well, how on Earth did you ever raise kids like Michelle and Craig in a place like South Shore?”  And my mom looks at these folks like they’re crazy, and she says, “Michelle and Craig are nothing special.  There are millions of Craigs and Michelles out there.  And I did the same thing that all those other parents did.”  She says, “I loved them.  I believed in them.  And I didn’t take any nonsense from them.”  (Applause.)

And I’m here tonight because I want people across this country to know that story — the real story of the South Side.  The story of that quiet majority of good folks — families like mine and young people like all of you who face real challenges but make good choices every single day.  (Applause.)  I’m here tonight because I want you all to know, graduates, that with your roots in this community and your education from this school, you have everything — you hear me, everything — you need to succeed.  (Applause.)

And I’m here tonight because I want to share with you just two fundamental lessons that I’ve learned in my own life, lessons grounded in the courage, love and faith that define this community and that I continue to live by to this day.

Now, the first lesson is very simple, and that is, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.  And I cannot stress that enough.  During your four years here at King College Prep, you all were surrounded by folks who were determined to help you, as Jade said — teachers who stayed after class to explain an assignment, counselors who pushed you to apply to college, coaches who saw something special in you that no one had seen before.

And as you head to college or the military, or whatever else comes next, you will face plenty of obstacles.  There will be times when you find yourself struggling.  And at first, you might not know where to turn to for help.  Or maybe you might be too embarrassed to ask.  And trust me, I know how that feels.

See, when I started my freshman year at Princeton, I felt totally overwhelmed and out of place.  I had never spent any meaningful time on a college campus.  I had never been away from home for an extended period of time.  I had no idea how to choose my classes, to — how to take notes in a large lecture.  And then I looked around at my classmates, and they all seemed so happy and comfortable and confident.  They never seemed to question whether they belonged at a school like Princeton.

So at first, I didn’t tell a soul how anxious and lonely and insecure I was feeling.  But as I got to know my classmates, I realized something important.  I realized that they were all struggling with something, but instead of hiding their struggles and trying to deal with them all alone, they reached out.  They asked for help.  If they didn’t understand something in class, they would raise their hand and ask a question, then they’d go to professor’s office hours and ask even more questions.  And they were never embarrassed about it, not one bit.  Because they knew that that’s how you succeed in life.

See, growing up, they had the expectation that they would succeed, and that they would have the resources they needed to achieve their goals.  So whether it was taking an SAT-prep class, getting a math tutor, seeking advice from a teacher or counselor — they took advantage of every opportunity they had.

So I decided to follow their lead.  I found an advisor who helped me choose my classes.  I went to the multicultural student center and met older students who became my mentor.  And soon enough, I felt like I had this college thing all figured out.  And, graduates, wherever you are headed, I guarantee you that there will be all kinds of folks who are eager to help you, but they are not going to come knocking on your door to find you.  You have to take responsibility to find them.  (Applause.)

So if you are struggling with an assignment, go to a tutoring session.  If you’re having trouble with a paper, get yourself to the writing center.  And if someone isn’t helpful, if they are impatient or unfriendly, then just find somebody else.  You may have to go to a second, or third, or a fourth person but if you keep asking.  (Applause.)  And if you understand that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength, then I guarantee you that you will get what you need to succeed.

And that brings me to the other big lesson that I want to share with you today.  It’s a lesson about how to get through those struggles, and that is, instead of letting your hardships and failures discourage or exhaust you, let them inspire you.  Let them make you even hungrier to succeed.

Now, I know that many of you have already dealt with some serious losses in your lives.  Maybe someone in your family lost a job or struggled with drugs or alcohol or an illness.  Maybe you’ve lost someone you love, someone you desperately wish could be here with you tonight.  And I know that many of you are thinking about Hadiya right now and feeling the hole that she’s left in your hearts.

So, yes, maybe you’ve been tested a lot more and a lot earlier in life than many other young people.  Maybe you have more scars than they do.  Maybe you have days when you feel more tired than someone your age should ever really feel.  But, graduates, tonight, I want you to understand that every scar that you have is a reminder not just that you got hurt, but that you survived.  (Applause.)  And as painful as they are, those holes we all have in our hearts are what truly connect us to each other.  They are the spaces we can make for other people’s sorrow and pain, as well as their joy and their love so that eventually, instead of feeling empty, our hearts feel even bigger and fuller.

So it’s okay to feel the sadness and the grief that comes with those losses.  But instead of letting those feelings defeat you, let them motivate you.  Let them serve as fuel for your journey.  See, that’s what folks in this community have always done.  Just look at our history.

Take the story of Lorraine Hansberry, who grew up right here on the South Side.  Lorraine was determined to be a playwright, but she struggled to raise the money to produce her first play.  But Lorraine stayed hungry.  And eventually, that play — “A Raisin in the Sun” — became the first play by an African American woman to make it to Broadway.  (Applause.)

And how about Richard Wright, who spent his young adult years on the South Side.  Richard’s father was a sharecropper who abandoned his family.  And while Richard loved to read, the local library wouldn’t let him check out books because he was black.  So Richard went ahead and wrote books of his own — books like “Native Son,” and “Black Boy,” that made him one of the greatest writers in American history.  (Applause.)

And finally, tonight, I’m thinking about my own parents — yes, Marian and Frazier Robinson.  See, neither of them went to college.  They never had much money.  But they were determined to see me and my brother get the best education possible.  So my mom served on the PTA, and she volunteered at school so she could keep an eye on us.

As for my Dad, he worked as a pump operator at the city water plant.  And even after he was diagnosed with MS in his thirties, and it became harder for him to walk and get dressed, he still managed to pull himself out of bed every morning, no matter how sick he felt.  Every day, without fail, I watched my father struggle on crutches to slowly make his way across our apartment, out the door to work, without complaint or self-pity or regret.  (Applause.)

Now, my Dad didn’t live to see me in the White House.  He passed away from complications from his illness when I was in my twenties.  And, graduates, let me tell you, he is the hole in my heart.  His loss is my scar.  But let me tell you something, his memory drives me forward every single day of my life.  (Applause.)  Every day, I work to make him proud.  Every day, I stay hungry, not just for myself, but for him and for my mom and for all the kids I grew up with who never had the opportunities that my family provided for me.

And, graduates, today, I want to urge you all to do the same thing.  There are so many folks in your school and in your families who believe in you, who have sacrificed for you, who have poured all of their love and hope and ambition into you.  And you need to stay hungry for them.  (Applause.)

There are so many young people who can only dream of the opportunities you’ve had at King College Prep — young people in troubled parts of the world who never set foot in a classroom.  Young people in this community who don’t have anyone to support them.  Young people like Hadiya, who were taken from us too soon and can never become who they were meant to be.  You need to stay hungry for them.

And, graduates, look, I know you can do this.  See, because if Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright could stay hungry through their hardships and humiliations; if Dr. Martin Luther King, the namesake of your school, could sacrifice his life for our country, then I know you can show up for a tutoring session.  I know you can go to some office hours.  (Applause.)

If Hadiya’s friends and family could survive the heartbreak and pain; if they could found organizations to honor her unfulfilled dreams; if they could inspire folks across this country to wear orange in to protest gun violence — then I know you all can live your life with the same determination and joy that Hadiya lived her life.  I know you all can dig deep and keep on fighting to fulfill your own dreams.

Because, graduates, in the end, you all are the ones responsible for changing the narrative about our communities.  (Applause.)  Wherever you go next, wherever you go, you all encounter people who doubt your very existence — folks who believe that hardworking families with strong values don’t exist on the South Side of Chicago, or in Detroit, or in El Paso, or in Indian Country, or in Appalachia.  They don’t believe you are real.

And with every word you speak, with every choice you make, with the way you carry yourself each day, you are rewriting the story of our communities.  And that’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House.  (Applause.)  Because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us, or it can change those myths.  (Applause.)

So, graduates, today, I want you all to join our team as we fight to get out the truth about our communities — about our inner cities and our farm towns, our barrios, our reservations.  You need to help us tell our story — the story of Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright, the story of my family and your families, the story of our sacrifice, our hunger, our hard work.

Graduates, starting today, it is your job to make sure that no one ever again is surprised by who we are and where we come from.  (Applause.)  And you know how I know you can do this?  Because you all — graduates of the King College Prep High School.  You all are from so many proud communities — North Kenwood, Chatham, South Shore, Woodlawn, Hyde Park -– I could go on and on.  You embody all of the courage and love, all of the hunger and hope that have always defined these communities –- our communities.

And I am so proud of you all.  And I stay inspired because of you.  And I cannot wait to see everything you all continue achieve in the years ahead.

So thank you.  God bless you.  I love you all.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)

END                  8:08 P.M. CDT

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Full Text Obama Presidency June 9, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Catholic Health Association Conference defending Obamacare — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Catholic Health Association Conference

Source: WH, 6-9-15 

Washington Marriott Wardman Park
Washington, D.C.

11:58 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much. (Applause.)  Everybody, please have a seat.  Thank you so much.

Well, I don’t know whether this is appropriate, but I just told Sister Carol I love her.  (Laughter.)  On a big stage.  It is true, though — I do.  She is just wonderful.  Her dedication to doing God’s work here on Earth, her commitment to serving “the least of these,” here steadiness, her strength, her steadfast voice have been an inspiration to me.  We would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act done had it not been for her.  I want to thank the entire Catholic Health Association for the incredible work you do.  (Applause.)

And it’s true, I just love nuns, generally.  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.  (Laughter.)

It is an honor to join you on your 100th anniversary of bringing hope and healing to so many.  I want to acknowledge Dignity Health and its CEO, Lloyd Dean — (applause) — honored by the Catholic Health Association last night for his outstanding support of our efforts to improve health care in America.  He has been a great friend.

I want to thank Ascension Health, a great provider of care  — that also recently raised its minimum wage.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Secretary Burwell and the members of Congress who are here today, because they have been obviously doing extraordinary work.  (Applause.)

My first job in Chicago when I moved after college to work as a community organizer — my first job was funded by the Campaign for Human Development, an anti-poverty initiative of the Catholic Church.  And my first office was at Holy Rosary Church on the South Side of Chicago, across from Palmer Park.  (Applause.)  You’re clapping there — she knows Holy Rosary.  (Laughter.)  And the task was to work with parishes and neighbors and faith and community leaders to bring low-income people together, to stitch neighborhoods together, clergy and laypeople. And the work was hard, and there were times where it was dispiriting.  We had plenty of setbacks.  There were times where I felt like quitting, where I wondered if the path I’d chosen was too hard.

But despite these challenges, I saw how kindness and compassion and faith can change the arc of people’s lives.  And I saw the power of faith — a shared belief that every human being, made in the image of God, deserves to live in dignity; that all children, no matter who they are or where they come from or how much money they were born into, ought to have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential; that we are all called, in the words of His Holiness Pope Francis, “to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness, and respect for every human being.”

And at the time, when I had just moved to Chicago, the Cardinal there was Cardinal Bernardin, an extraordinary man.  And he understood that part of that commitment, part of that commitment to the dignity of every human being also meant that we had to care about the health of every human being.  And he articulated that, and the Church articulated that, as we moved at the state level in the Illinois legislature, once I was elected there later on in life, to advance the proposition that health care is not a privilege, it is a right.

And that belief is at the heart of the Catholic Health Association’s mission.  For decades, your member hospitals have been on the front lines, often serving the marginalized, the vulnerable and the sick and the uninsured.  And that belief is at the heart of why we came together more than five years ago to reform our health care system — to guarantee that every American has access to quality, affordable care.

So I’m here today to say thank you for your tireless efforts to make health reform a reality.  Without your commitment to compassionate care, without your moral force, we would not have succeeded.  (Applause.)  We would not have succeeded had it not been for you and the foundation you had laid.  (Applause.)

And pursuing health care reform wasn’t about making good on a campaign promise for me.  It was, remember, in the wake of an economic crisis with a very human toll and it was integral to restoring the basic promise of America — the notion that in this country, if you work hard and you take responsibility, you can get ahead.  You can make it if you try.  Everything we’ve done these past six years and a half years to rebuild our economy on a new foundation — from rescuing and retooling our industries, to reforming our schools, to rethinking the way we produce and use energy, to reducing our deficits — all of that has been in pursuit of that one goal, creating opportunity for all people.  And health reform was a critical part of that effort.

For decades, a major barrier to economic opportunity was our broken health care system.  It exposed working families to the insecurities of a changing economy.  It saddled our businesses with skyrocketing costs that made it hard to hire or pay a good wage.  It threatened our entire nation’s long-term prosperity, was the primary driver of our deficits.

And for hospitals like yours, the fact that so many people didn’t have basic care meant you were scrambling and scratching every single day to try to figure out how do we keep our doors open.

Leaders from Teddy Roosevelt to Teddy Kennedy wanted to reform it.  For as long as there were Americans who couldn’t afford decent health care, as long as there were people who had to choose between paying for medicine or paying the rent, as long as there were parents who had to figure out whether they could sell or borrow to pay for a child’s treatment just a few months more, and beg for God’s mercy to make it work in time — as long as those things were happening, America was not living up to our highest ideals.

And that’s why providers and faith leaders like you called for expanding access to affordable care.  Every day, you saw the very personal suffering of those who go without it.  And it seemed like an insurmountable challenge.  Every time there was enough political will to alleviate that suffering and to reform the health care system — whether it was under Democratic Presidents or Republican Presidents — you had special interests arraying and keeping the status quo in place.  And each year that passed without reform the stakes kept getting higher.

By the time I took office, thousands of Americans were losing their health insurance every single day.  Many people died each year because they didn’t have health insurance.  Many families who thought they had coverage were driven into bankruptcy by out-of-pocket costs.  Tens of millions of our fellow citizens had no coverage at all in this, the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth.  And despite being the only advanced economy in the world without universal health care, our health care costs grew to be the most expensive in the world with no slowing in sight.  And that trend strained the budgets of families and businesses and our government.

And so we determined that we could not keep kicking that can down the road any longer.  We could not leave that problem for another generation to solve, or another generation after that.

And remember, this was not easy.  (Laughter.)  There were those who thought health care reform was too messy, and too complicated, and too politically risky.  I had pollsters showing me stuff, and 85 percent of folks at any given time had health care and so they weren’t necessarily incentivized to support it. And you could scare the heck out of them about even if they weren’t entirely satisfied with the existing system that somehow it would be terrible to change it.  All kinds of warning signs about how tough this was — bad politics.

But for every politician and pundit who said we should wait, why rush, barely a day went by where I didn’t hear from hardworking Americans who didn’t have a moment left to lose.  These were men and women from all backgrounds, all walks of life, all races, all faiths, in big cities, small towns, red states, blue states.  Middle-class families with coverage that turned out not to be there for them when they needed it.  Moms and dads desperately seeking care for a child with a chronic illness only to be told “no” again and again — or fearful as their child got older, what was there future going to be because they weren’t going to be able to get insurance once they left the house.  Small business owners forced to choose between insuring their employees and keeping the “open” sign hanging in the window.

And every one of these stories tugged at me in a personal way — because I spoke about seeing my mom worry about how she was going to deal with her finances when she got very sick.  And I was reminded of the fear that Michelle and I felt when Sasha was a few months old and we had to race to the hospital, in the emergency room learning that she had meningitis — that we caught only because we had a wonderful pediatrician and regular care.  Never felt so scared or helpless in my life.

We were fortunate enough to have good health insurance.   And I remember looking around in that emergency room and thinking what about the parents who aren’t that lucky?  What about the parents who get hit with a bill of $20,000 or $30,000, and they’ve got no idea how to pay for it?  What about those parents with kids who have a chronic illness like asthma and have to keep going back to the emergency room because they don’t have a regular doctor, and the bills never stop coming?  Who’s going to stand up for them?

Behind every single story was a simple question:  What kind of country do we want to be?  Are we a country that’s defined by values that say access to health care is a commodity awarded to only the highest bidders, or by the values that say health care is a fundamental right?  Do we believe that where you start should determine how far you go, or do we believe that in the greatest nation on Earth, everybody deserves the opportunity to make it — to make of their lives what they will?

The rugged individualism that defines America has always been bound by a shared set of values, an enduring sense that we’re in this together, that America is not a place where we simply turn away from the sick, or turn our backs on the tired, the poor, the huddled masses.  It is a place sustained by the idea:  I am my brother’s keeper.  I am my sister’s keeper — that we have an obligation to put ourselves in our neighbor’s shoes and see each other’s common humanity.

And so, after a century of talk, after decades of trying, after a year of sustained debate, we finally made health care reform a reality here in America.  (Applause.)

And despite the constant doom-and-gloom predictions, the unending Chicken Little warnings that somehow making health insurance fairer and easier to buy would lead to the end of freedom, the end of the American way of life — lo and behold, it did not happen.  None of this came to pass.  In fact, in a lot of ways, the Affordable Care Act worked out better than some of us anticipated.

Nearly one in three uninsured Americans have already been covered — more than 16 million people -– driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level ever.  (Applause.)  Ever.  On top of that, tens of millions more enjoy new protections with the coverage that they’ve already got.  That 85 percent who had health insurance, they may not know that they’ve got a better deal now than they did, but they do.  Americans can no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions — from you having had cancer to you having had a baby.  Women can’t be charged more just for being a woman.  (Applause.)  And they get free preventive services like mammograms.  And there are no more annual or lifetime caps on the care patients receive.

Medicare has been strengthened and protected.  We’ve added 13 years to its actuarial life.  The financial difference for business owners trying to invest and grow, and the families trying to save and spend — that’s real, too.  Health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years.  Employer premiums are rising at a rate tied for the lowest on record.  The average family premium is $1,800 lower today than it would have been had trends over the decade before the ACA passed continued.

In the years to come, countless Americans who can now buy plans that are portable and affordable on a competitive marketplace will be free to chase their own ideas, unleash new enterprises across the country, knowing they’ll be able to buy health insurance.

And here’s the thing — that security won’t just be there for us.  It will be there for our kids as they go through life.  When they graduate from college, they’re looking for that first job, they can stay on our plans until they’re 26.  When they start a family, pregnancy will no longer count against them as a preexisting condition.  When they change jobs or lose a job, or strike out on their own to start a business, they’ll still be able to get good coverage.  They’ll have that peace of mind all the way until they retire into a Medicare that now has cheaper prescription drugs and wellness visits to make sure that they stay healthy.

And while we were told again and again that Obamacare would be a job-killer — amazingly enough, some critics still peddle this notion — it turns out in reality, America has experienced 63 straight months of private sector job growth — a streak that started the month we passed the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.) The longest streak of private sector job growth on record — that adds up to 12.6 million new jobs.  (Applause.)

So the critics stubbornly ignore reality.  In reality, there is a self-employed single mom of three who couldn’t afford health insurance until health reform passed and she qualified for Medicaid in her state.  And she was finally able to get a mammogram, which detected early-stage breast cancer and may have saved her life.  That’s the reality, not the mythology.

In reality, there are parents in Texas whose autistic son couldn’t speak.  Even with health insurance, they struggled to pay for his treatment.  But health reform meant they could buy an affordable secondary plan that covered therapy for their son — and today, that little boy can tell his parents that he loves them.  That’s the reality.  (Applause.)

In reality, there’s a self-employed barber from Tennessee — who happens to be a Republican — who couldn’t afford health insurance until our new marketplace opened up.  And once he bought a plan, he finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  In the old days, without coverage, he wouldn’t have even known that he was sick.  And today, he’s now cancer-free.

So five years in, what we are talking about it is no longer just a law.  It’s no longer just a theory.  This isn’t even just about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.  This isn’t about myths or rumors that folks try to sustain.  There is a reality that people on the ground day to day are experiencing.  Their lives are better.

This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another.  This is health care in America — which is why, once you get outside of Washington and leave behind the Beltway chatter and the politics, Americans support this new reality.  When you talk to people who actually are enrolled in a new marketplace plan, the vast majority of them like their coverage. The vast majority are satisfied with their choice of doctors and hospitals and satisfied with their monthly premiums.  They like their reality.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have more work to do.  Sister Carol and I were talking backstage — we know we got more work to do.  Like any serious attempt at change, there were disruptions in the rollout, there are policies we can put in place to make health care work even better.  Secretary Burwell is talking about all the things we have to do together around delivery system reform.  We have to protect the coverage that people have now and sign even more people up.  We need more governors and state legislatures to expand Medicaid, which was a central part of the architecture of the overall plan.  We have to continue to improve the quality of care.  And we know we can still bring down costs.

And none of this is going to be easy.  Nobody suggests that somehow our health care system is perfect as a consequence of the law being passed, but it is serving so many more people so much better.  And we’re not going to go backwards.  There’s something, I have to say, just deeply cynical about the ceaseless, endless partisan attempts to roll back progress.  I mean, I understood folks being skeptical or worried before the law passed and there wasn’t a reality there to examine.  But once you see millions of people of having health care, once you see that all the bad things that were predicted didn’t happen, you’d think that it would be time to move one.

Let’s figure out how to make it better.  It seems so cynical to want to take coverage away from millions of people; to take care away from people who need it the most; to punish millions with higher costs of care and unravel what’s now been woven into the fabric of America.

And that kind of cynicism flies in the face of our history.  Our history is one of each generation striving to do better and to be better than the last.  Just as we’ll never go back to a time when seniors were left to languish in poverty or not have any health insurance in their golden years.  There was a generation that didn’t have that guarantee of health care.  We’re not going to go back to a time when our citizens can be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition.  When tens of millions of people couldn’t afford decent, affordable care — that wasn’t a better America.  That’s not freedom.  The freedom to languish in illness, or to be bankrupt because somebody in your family gets stick — that’s not who we are.  That’s not what we’re about.

Debra Lea Oren of Pennsylvania knows that.  Debra suffers from osteoarthritis that was so severe that it put her in a wheelchair.  And for years she couldn’t stand or walk at all, and was in constant pain — through no fault of her own, just the twists and turns of life.  And without health insurance to get treatment, it seemed as though she might never again live a life that was full.  Today, Debra is enrolled in affordable health coverage, was able to have surgery to replace her knees.  She’s back on her feet.  She walks her dogs, shops at the grocery store, gets to her doctor’s appointments.  She’s cooking, she’s exercising, regaining her health.

Debra couldn’t be here today, but she recently wrote to me and she said:  “I walk with my husband Michael and hold hands.  It’s like a whole new world for me.”  Just walking and holding hands — something that one of our fellow Americans for years could not do.

Every day, miracles happen in your hospitals.  But remaking Debra’s world didn’t require a miracle.  It just required that Debra have access to something that she and every other American has a right to expect, which is health care coverage.

And while there are outcomes that we can calculate and enumerate — the number of newly insured families, the number of lives saved — those numbers all add up to success in this reform effort.  But there are also outcomes that are harder to calculate — in the tally of pain and tragedy and bankruptcies that have been averted, but also in the security of a parent who can afford to take her kid to the doctor; or the dignity of a grandfather who can get the preventive care that he needs; or the freedom of an entrepreneur who can start a new venture — or the joy of a wife who thought she’d never again take her husband’s hand and go for a walk.

In the end, that’s why you do what you do.  Isn’t that what this is all about?  Is there any greater measure of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness than those simple pleasures that are afforded because you have good health and you have some security?

More than five years ago, I said that while I was not the first President to take up this cause, I was determined to be the last.  And now it’s up to all of us — the citizens in this room and across the country- — to continue to help make the right to health care a reality for all Americans.  And if we keep faith with one another and keep working for each other to create opportunity for everybody who strives for it, then, in the words of Senator Ted Kennedy, “the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.”
It couldn’t have happened without you.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you all.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

END
12:25 P.M. EDT

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