CNSNews.com Obama Pitched Universal Health Care to Students in Meeting Prior to His Speech on Education

From CNSNews:

(CNSNews.com) – Prior to his nationally broadcast speech to students on Tuesday, President Barack Obama made a pitch for health care reform in a discussion with 40 freshmen at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va.

The president traveled to Wakefield High to give a speech on education reform. The speech was posted in advance on the White House Web site to quell fears that the president intended to plug his political agenda to impressionable minds.

Although the president avoided controversial topics in his speech, he did promote health care reform in a face-to-face discussion at Wakefield High School. Asked by a student how he stays motivated to do his job, Obama replied that his staff gives him 10 letters every day from “ordinary folks.”

“Some of the stories are really depressing,” Obama told the 40 freshman, who were chosen to meet with the president during freshman orientation, according to school officials.

“You hear about people who are sick but don’t have health care, and suddenly they get a bill for $100,000, and there’s no way they can pay for it, and they’re about to lose their house. And you’re just reminded that the country is full of really good people who sometimes are going through a hard time,” Obama said.

“They just need a break.  They need a little bit of help.  Maybe the way things are set up right now isn’t always fair for people, and that motivates you, because you say, well, I can’t make everything perfect, I can’t prevent somebody from getting sick, but maybe I can make sure that they’ve got insurance so that when they do get sick, they’re going to get some help.”

Another student asked the president about health care in Iraq and Afghanistan: “And my question is, currently 36 countries have universal health coverage, including Iraq and Afghanistan, which have it paid for by the United States. Why can’t the United States have universal health coverage?”


Students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., gave President Barack Obama a warm reception on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009. (Photo by Penny Starr/CNSNews.com)
“Well, I think that’s the question I’ve been asking Congress, because I think we need it,” Obama said. “I think we can do it.  And I’m going to be making a speech tomorrow night, talking about my plan to make sure that everybody has access to affordable health care.”

Obama told the students that in the 1940s and 50s, “most of the wealthy countries around the world decided to set up health care systems that covered everybody.  The United States — for a number of different reasons — organized their health care around employer-based health insurance.”

Obama noted that most Americans received health insurance through their jobs. “And you can see some problems with that,” Obama continued: “Number one is, if you lose your job, then you don’t have health insurance. The other thing is some employers may not want to do right by their employees by giving them health insurance, and then they’re kind of out of luck.”

Obama noted that the majority of Americans still have health insurance through their jobs: “Most of them are happy with it, but a lot of people fall through the cracks,” Obama said.  “If you’re self-employed, if you start your own business, if you are working in a job that doesn’t offer health insurance, then you’re — you have real problems.

“So what we’re trying to do is set up a system where people who have health insurance on the job, they can keep it, but if you don’t have health insurance for the job, if you’re self-employed, if you’re unemployed, that you’re able to get health insurance through another way,” Obama said.

“And we can afford to do it and it will actually, I think, over time save us money if we set that up.”


Third graders at Jane Addams Elementary School in Springfield, Ill., watch President Barack Obama deliver a televised address on education, on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

During his nationally broadcast speech at Wakefield High School, Obama omitted any discussion of health care. Instead, he focused on personal responsibility, overcoming obstacles and never giving up.

“I get it,” Obama told the students. “I know what it’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mom who had to work and who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us the things that other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and I felt like I didn’t fit in.

“But I was lucky,” Obama said. “I got a lot of second chances, and I had the opportunity to go to college and law school and follow my dreams.”

Obama said it was up to each individual to make the most of his or her own circumstances.

“I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, and supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working, where students aren’t getting the opportunities that they deserve,” Obama said.

“But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, the best schools in the world — and none of it will make a difference, none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities, unless you show up to those schools, unless you pay attention to those teachers, unless you listen to your parents and grandparents and other adults and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.,” Obama said.

“That’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education.”

Students at Wakefield High School said the president gave them tips on how to be successful.

“You have to have failure before you can be successful and how you can be successful if you keep trying and keeping pushing your way in life,” sophomore Erin Kelly told CNSNews.com.

“Just never stop trying,” junior Erika Paz said. “Don’t let anything hold you back.”

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