This morning, speaking before thousands at the Patriot Center in Virginia, the President was perhaps even more passionate about finishing the job on health reform than any time in this year-long debate. It’s probably best to let him speak for himself, so read the full transcript for yourself or a few excerpts below:
Setting the stage:
THE PRESIDENT: A few miles from here, Congress is in the final stages of a fateful debate about the future of health insurance in America. (Applause.) It’s a debate that’s raged not just for the past year but for the past century. One thing when you’re in the White House, you’ve got a lot of history books around you. (Laughter.) And so I’ve been reading up on the history here. Teddy Roosevelt, Republican, was the first to advocate that everybody get health care in this country. (Applause.) Every decade since, we’ve had Presidents, Republicans and Democrats, from Harry Truman to Richard Nixon to JFK to Lyndon Johnson to -- every single President has said we need to fix this system. It’s a debate that’s not only about the cost of health care, not just about what we’re doing about folks who aren’t getting a fair shake from their insurance companies. It’s a debate about the character of our country -– (applause) -- about whether we can still meet the challenges of our time; whether we still have the guts and the courage to give every citizen, not just some, the chance to reach their dreams. (Applause.)
At the heart of this debate is the question of whether we’re going to accept a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people -- (applause) -- because if this vote fails, the insurance industry will continue to run amok. They will continue to deny people coverage. They will continue to deny people care. They will continue to jack up premiums 40 or 50 or 60 percent as they have in the last few weeks without any accountability whatsoever. They know this. And that’s why their lobbyists are stalking the halls of Congress as we speak, and pouring millions of dollars into negative ads. And that’s why they are doing everything they can to kill this bill.
Placing the coming vote in the context of history:
THE PRESIDENT: In just a few days, a century-long struggle will culminate in an historic vote. And when we have faced such decisions in our past, this nation has chosen time and again to extend its promise to more of its people.
When the naysayers argued that Social Security would lead to socialism, the men and women of Congress stood fast, and created a program that has lifted millions of poverty.
When the cynics warned that Medicare would lead to a government takeover of our entire health care system, and it didn’t have much support in the polls, Democrats and Republicans refused to back down, and made sure that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.
Generations ago, those who came before made the decision that our seniors and our poor should not be forced to go without health care just because they couldn’t afford it. Today, it falls to this generation to decide whether we will make the same promise to middle-class families, and small businesses, and young Americans like yourselves who are just starting out.
And in closing:
THE PRESIDENT: I still believe we can do what’s right. I still believe we can do what’s hard. The need is great. The opportunity is here. And the time for reform is now.