Full text of Rev. Dr. William J. Barber’s Speech at Health Reform Rally at State Capitol in Raleigh, August 29, 2009.
If my people who are called by my name would humble themselves, pray and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear from heaven and heal the land. (2d Chronicles 7:14)
We are here today because we need a healing in the land. We need those who want to perpetuate a sick health care system that is not for everybody and does not cover everybody to turn from their wicked ways. We are here today because we need a healing in the land.
It is ironic that 74 years ago in this same month of August, President Franklin Roosevelt was fighting to secure and sign the Social Security Act. Even then, the precursors of today’s forces of greed, selfishness, fear, and division were fighting him, and fighting reform and progressivism in America. They called it “socialism.” That’s what they said about Social Security. They said it would break America. They said that everybody should not be included.
In fact, these attacks weakened the first Social Security Act. The forces of greed, selfishness, fear, and division fought so hard, and bought so many souls, they forced coverage for the mostly Black, Hispanic and poor domestic and farm workers to be taken out of the Act before it was passed. It took 19 long years for these Americans to finally be covered when they turned 65 –if they made it to 65.
The forces of greed, selfishness, fear, and division have a long history of promoting a divided America. They are good at it. They are loud at it. And they are consistent at it.
But today we gather to say they have had their say. Now it is time for us who believe in a United America, a caring America, a compassionate America to speak up.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I was born 2 days after the March on Washington, 46 years ago on yesterday. That was a triumphant day. That was a day when a prophet named Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out a challenge to these same forces in the nation’s capital. He challenged the forces who were saying the call for justice and jobs and equality would cost too much for America. Dr. King said on that triumphant day, as we must say now, we refuse to believe that the great vaults of this nation are bankrupt. And today I say, we refuse to believe that we cannot pay for a just health care system.
The forces of greed, selfishness, fear and division can not have it both ways. When they demand more tax cuts for the wealthy that don’t need it, somehow they always find the money.
When they want to bail out Wall Street’s bankers and pay the extravagant CEO’s billion dollar bonuses with taxpayer’s dollars, they can always find the money.
When they want to follow in lock step the leadership of a President who led us into an immoral and unnecessary war, they found trillions of dollars in our money.
But when it comes to caring for our own, for the 50 million Americans who can’t pay for good health insurance, the voices of greed, selfishness, division and fear want to tell us the funds are not sufficient. You can’t break and rob the bank and then say there is no money in the bank. You can’t say, it cost too much today knowing that it will cost even more tomorrow if you don’t fix it now. You can’t with integrity be a Senator or Representative with the best retirement and health care in the nation fight plans to help everyday Americans to need good health care. You can’t with integrity accept Social Security and Medicare which, in case you haven’t heard, are U.S. Government programs, and then go on television and say the Government ought not help others get health insurance. Something is terribly wrong with these positions.
Yes, in a democracy we ought to have a debate. But the debate ought to be logical. And it surely out not to based in lies and distortion. So we are here today to say we will not, cannot, and must not believe the distortions.
Health Care for Every American, Now.
That’s what we believe.
That’s what we want.
That’s what we are fighting for.
Too many Americans today are straining under the burden of two related trends: shrinking health care coverage and rising health care costs. Over the last decade, millions of Americans have found themselves uninsured, and millions more have become underinsured as the value of their coverage has declined. In the years 2008 – 2010 it is estimated that almost 6,000 people a day, or almost 7 million Americans total, will lose their health insurance. We must help our fellow Americans.
Dr. Martin Luther King also said 40 years ago: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
So, health care reform is not some kind of calculated socialism. It is common sense public policy. Tim Wise, a white social commentator, has said, “By allowing the right to throw around terms like ‘socialist’ to describe the President and ‘socialism’ to describe his….health care reform proposals without challenges is to ensure that the right will succeed in their demonization campaign…. Wise said, and I agree, this noise is about race. It is about "othering" a President.” This is what animates the every move of some of the poor and working people who get sucked in by the Palins and the Limbaugh fear mongering. Unless our Movement begins pushing back, and starts insisting that yes, the old days are gone, white hegemony is dead, and deserved its demise, and that all of us, Black, Brown AND white, will be better off for it, the chorus of white backlash will only grow louder. So too will it grow more effective at dividing and conquering the working people who would benefit -- all of them -- from a new direction.”
If caring for all the people is ‘socialist’ then Amos the prophet in the bible was a socialist when he said ‘Let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ Isaiah was a socialist when he said ‘Lose the bands of wickedness and care for the poor among us.’ Jesus Christ, the non-profit prophet and healer, he was a socialist when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, give sight to the blind, and healing to the broken hearted.” If insuring health care is socialist then Ralph Waldo Emerson was a socialist when he said, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
If working for a the just society that provides health care for all Americans is socialist, then the founding fathers were socialist; when they enumerated in the founding documents of this nation that the purpose of government was to work for the common good, not private prosperity alone.
Health care reform is not socialism. It is social justice and we must make this clear. We cannot allow the B.O.L. to dictate this debate. We cannot allow the three screamers—Mr. Beck, Mr. O’Rielly and Mr. Limbaugh—to set the terms of this important discussion. The BOL shout loud to try to drown out our voices of truth and compassion. That is why we gather and lift our voices to speak. And to Act. Health care for every American now.
We must take on every distortion and every the lie. When they try to say there is a death panel in the current proposal. No, we must say. There is not a death panel in the current proposal but there is a death panel in the current system.
The Death Panel is the discriminatory system now in place. The panel of insurance claims adjusters who deny claims. Those who denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions. Those who set the cost of insurance that forces people to choose between food, paying the rent, or health insurance. This Death Panel keeps one out of four Americans at the mercy of every illness or accident and every lost job. We must challenge those who are funded by insurance companies and the health care industries. Democracy NC gathered research from the Center of Responsive Politics and Federal Elections Commission, and listed the donations given to every member of Congress. Senator Richard Burr, for instance, leads the list receiving over 1 million, 600 thousand dollars from health care and insurance corporations. And we must say to him and every other elected official. No matter who gives you money, your job is to care for all the people. Help make a better life for all the people.
We must challenge Democratic Party candidates who run on a progressive agenda. Who say in the heat of campaign that they stand for health care reform. That say they stand with the late Lion of the Senate, the honorable Edward M. Kennedy who championed full health care reform and said, “Every American should have the opportunity to receive a quality education, a job that respects their dignity and protects their safety and health care that does not condemn those whose health is impaired to life of poverty and lost opportunity.”
We must challenge those who rode the coattails of President Obama, calling for health care reform, but somehow once they get elected try to move from being Lions that will fight for real change to being Blue Dogs, who sniff around for the easy compromise. We believe in bipartisan efforts but we don’t believe in a watered down bifurcated reform bill that doesn’t address the fundamental problems.
Why should we have to compomise on the moral rightness of health on every American? Senator Burr, Senator Hagan no matter whose money contributed or what color the dog, the donkey or the elephant is. Conservative or liberal we want health care for every American; this must be our cry We must be lions.
Before this debate ever began this year, we in the HKonJ Coalition said four years ago, Health Care for All. NC ought to provide its people with health insurance and prescription drugs, while funding public health programs to treat social diseases that plague Black and poor communities including HIV/AIDS, diseases caused by environmental pollution and warming, drugs, domestic violence, mental illness, diabetes, and obesity.
The NAACP has called for health reform for years. Our current system discriminates on the basis of race and class.
We know what works in America and bless all the people:
(1) Full health care coverage that is affordable to every individual, family and business which also provides coverage for pre-existing conditions; (2) Standard, comprehensive health care benefits that meet everyone’s needs from preventive to chronic care; (3) The choice of a private or public health care plan, which includes a new public health care “public option” that will provide a guaranteed backup which will always be there to ensure quality, affordable health care coverage no matter what; and (4) Equity in health care access, treatment, research, and resources to people and communities of color and stronger health services in low-income communities.
"Health Care, just like Education, is a fundamental human right in the 21st century in America."
Systemic denial of health care to the poor, to working people and people out of work, to the 50-100 million Americans who need health care the most, to people with pre-existing diseases is a sin. It's evil. It's wrong. It's un-just. It's not American. It's perpetuating a separate and unequal society. It's cementing a Jim Crow Health system in place for another century.
This is the United States of America. The richest country in the world, we want an American Health Care System--not a system that works for the rich, and is dysfunctional for everyone else. We want an American Health Care System--not a system that discriminates and excludes that picks and chooses who lives and who dies by the size of their bank account. The exclusive health system works fine for those with good jobs and big bank accounts.
The exclusive health care system belongs to them. But this is the United States of America. We need a United States of America Health Care System, the USA Health Care Plan. If you don't understand that, then you don't understand what America is. America is ours. America is all of us.
If my people who are called by my name would humble themselves, pray and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear from heaven and heal the land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
We need a healing.
We need to turn from fear.
We need to turn from greed.
We need to turn from lies.
We need to turn from selfishness.
We need to turn from wicked ways.
We need a healing in the land.
Too many children are dying.
We need a healing in the land.
To many families are struggling.
Too many are scared to get sick, and can’t go to the doctor.
We need a healing in the land!
We don’t believe in social Darwinism, survival of the fitness.
We believe we are our brother’s keeper.
We believe we ought to do unto other as we would have them do unto us.
We believe that a great nation care for of its people.
We believe when we lift up the poor and lift up the hurting the whole nation gets elevated.
We believe that we reap what we sow.
If we sow compassion;
If we sow caring;
Then God will shed his grace on us,
And so this is no time for us to stand on the side line.
No time for us to be quiet.
We need a healing in the nation.
Let every politician hear our voice, health care for every American Now,
Go tell your friends; go tell your neighbor it’s time to stand, its time to fight!
We need a healing in America.
Health care, every American now.
Nothing will turn us back.
This the moral issue of our day.
Will love our foes, but we cannot follow their path.
We need a healing in the nation and we need it now!
If we act. If we stand. If we speak. God will use our actions and heal our land!