"On Behalf of My Mother"

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This morning the President made it official: things are going to change quite a bit between Americans and their health insurance companies.  The President signed health reform into law, with a package of fixes not far behind, and in the process created a future for the country in which Americans and small businesses are in control of their own health care, not the insurance industry.

Having expressed all due admiration for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Leader Harry Reid, and those Members of Congress who showed the courage to stand up to an avalanche of misinformation and insurance industry attacks, the President explained what the signing was really about:

Today, I’m signing this reform bill into law on behalf of my mother, who argued with insurance companies even as she battled cancer in her final days.

I’m signing it for Ryan Smith, who’s here today.  He runs a small business with five employees.  He’s trying to do the right thing, paying half the cost of coverage for his workers.  This bill will help him afford that coverage.

I’m signing it for 11-year-old Marcelas Owens, who’s also here.  (Applause.)  Marcelas lost his mom to an illness.  And she didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford the care that she needed.  So in her memory he has told her story across America so that no other children have to go through what his family has experienced.  (Applause.)

I’m signing it for Natoma Canfield.  Natoma had to give up her health coverage after her rates were jacked up by more than 40 percent.  She was terrified that an illness would mean she’d lose the house that her parents built, so she gave up her insurance.  Now she’s lying in a hospital bed, as we speak, faced with just such an illness, praying that she can somehow afford to get well without insurance.  Natoma’s family is here today because Natoma can’t be.  And her sister Connie is here.  Connie, stand up.  (Applause.)

I’m signing this bill for all the leaders who took up this cause through the generations -- from Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, from Harry Truman, to Lyndon Johnson, from Bill and Hillary Clinton, to one of the deans who’s been fighting this so long, John Dingell.  (Applause.)  To Senator Ted Kennedy.  (Applause.)  And it’s fitting that Ted’s widow, Vicki, is here -- it’s fitting that Teddy’s widow, Vicki, is here; and his niece Caroline; his son Patrick, whose vote helped make this reform a reality.  (Applause.)

I remember seeing Ted walk through that door in a summit in this room a year ago -- one of his last public appearances.  And it was hard for him to make it.  But he was confident that we would do the right thing.

Our presence here today is remarkable and improbable.  With all the punditry, all of the lobbying, all of the game-playing that passes for governing in Washington, it’s been easy at times to doubt our ability to do such a big thing, such a complicated thing; to wonder if there are limits to what we, as a people, can still achieve.  It’s easy to succumb to the sense of cynicism about what’s possible in this country.

But today, we are affirming that essential truth -– a truth every generation is called to rediscover for itself –- that we are not a nation that scales back its aspirations.  (Applause.)  We are not a nation that falls prey to doubt or mistrust.  We don't fall prey to fear.  We are not a nation that does what’s easy.  That’s not who we are.  That’s not how we got here.

We are a nation that faces its challenges and accepts its responsibilities.  We are a nation that does what is hard.  What is necessary.  What is right.  Here, in this country, we shape our own destiny.  That is what we do.  That is who we are.  That is what makes us the United States of America. 

And we have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.  (Applause.)  And it is an extraordinary achievement that has happened because of all of you and all the advocates all across the country.

So, thank you.  Thank you.  God bless you, and may God bless the United States.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.

All right, I would now like to call up to stage some of the members of Congress who helped make this day possible, and some of the Americans who will benefit from these reforms.  And we’re going to sign this bill.

President Obama Signs Health Reform Bill

President Barack Obama reaches for a pen as he signs the health insurance reform bill in the East Room of the White House, March 23, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

UPDATE: The President spoke soon afterwards at the Department of Interior, where he reiterated many of the same points, but also took a more light-hearted tone towards critics of reform:

I said this once or twice, but it bears repeating:  If you like your current insurance, you will keep your current insurance.  No government takeover; nobody is changing what you’ve got if you’re happy with it.  If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor.  In fact, more people will keep their doctors because your coverage will be more secure and more stable than it was before I signed this legislation.

And now that this legislation is passed, you don’t have to take my word for it.  You’ll be able to see it in your own lives.  I heard one of the Republican leaders say this was going to be Armageddon.  Well, two months from now, six months from now, you can check it out.  We’ll look around –- (laughter) -- and we’ll see.  (Applause.)  You don’t have to take my word for it.  (Applause.)

Related Topics: Health Care
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