Elinor spoke eloquently without notes: She's been fighting this battle a long time.
Next to the microphone was Donna Smith, one of Health Care for All Colorado's newest members. She emailed me her remarks, and I'll simply share them rather than try to condense:
Remarks by Donna Smith, Aurora, Colo.She then introduced her "SiCKO commander-in-chief," Michael Moore.
DENVER -- My name is Donna Smith. Today I stand here as a member of a very exclusive club. I am one of only a few Americans featured in Michael Moore’s new movie, SiCKO. And I am part of an even more exclusive group of just eight Americans who traveled to Cuba with Michael to receive medical care.
Trust me, as much as I’ve grown to respect and enjoy Michael Moore and his crew, this club that isn’t one for which you want to qualify. Each of us in the film has lost much at the hands of the American private health care system. Some lost everything they owned after a lifetime of hard work – like we did; and some lost their lives.
The stories you will see on the screen during SiCKO represent tens of thousands of other American tragedies. As we stand here today, 50 Americans will die today without the necessary care they needed simply because they couldn’t afford it.
But you and I together are in another not-so-exclusive club with more than 250 million fellow Americans, we are the health insurance card-carrying club – we are Coloradoans, we are Americans – we are brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, neighbors and friends at great risk due to the lack of universal health care.
Having health insurance no longer means having peace of mind. If you get sick and you are insured you may find yourself underinsured or worse – unable to get necessary care. You may have premiums rising so high that you can no longer afford both housing and health insurance. You may have deductibles and co-pays that effectively and efficiently squeeze you away from seeking care. You may have collectors pursuing medical debt hound you to the point of garnishment and humiliation – as we did. You may have an employer that no longer wants you covered by the group health insurance plan with rising premiums and huge deductibles. And you may not know these things until in the grip of a health care crisis with no options and no ability to dig out.
But our club is a powerful club too, my friends. We have what we need to change this broken health care system. We have voices to speak up, we have pens and computers with which to write and we have the ballot box in which we will send the clearest statement of our membership creed:
No Coloradoan, no American, should ever want again for basic health care. No American family should face financial ruin because someone gets sick. And certainly not one more American should die because he or she was denied treatment. Universal, single-payer health care is within our reach and it our duty and responsibility to push for it.
Though many of our elected officials will scatter like bugs when they are forced to take a stand on this issue or heaven forbid stand in unity with Michael Moore, it is up to you and me to hold them steady to the cause. They must fear our voices and the loss of our votes more than they fear the loss of health care lobby money for their campaigns or the threats of negative ads against them if they do not tow the private health care line.
It is no longer enough for our leaders to protect life only while it is in the womb. To be cared for when we are sick is a basic human need and a basic human right.
Forty years ago, in April of 1967, speaking at the Riverside Church in New York, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said,” Of all the forms of injustice, inequality in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Reach deep into your minds and hearts Colorado. Are we willing to be shocking and inhumane any longer?
Half measures will not do. Universal, free health care must become reality.
On the day I left Denver to meet up with the Michael Moore production crew in Miami, the front page of the Rocky Mountain News had a story about Anna Nicole Smith’s body and where it might end up. Page one, my friends. On page 14, there was a much smaller story about Nathan Wilkes and his family right here in Colorado. Though fully insured, they are living the same healthcare nightmare faced by so many of us today.
Earlier this week on a movie screen in the middle of Manhattan, my dignity and my voice began to return. No longer shamed by my inability to stay financially afloat in a sea of health care debt, I will not rest until every American has access to free, universal health care.
My husband Larry and I rode from Manhattan through Philadelphia and into Washington, D.C., on a bus dubbed the SiCKO bus with nurses from throughout the country led by the brave and dedicated nurses from the California Nurses Association. We had nurses with us from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, my home state of Illinois and of course from California. Everywhere we stopped, we were met with cheers and support for the nurses and their message: Universal health care now for all Americans.
And now I’d like to introduce to you the man who restored my dignity in SiCKO and who fights for justice in health care throughout this land. He is an Academy Award winning and Cannes Film Festival winning filmmaker, and an American patriot in the truest sense. He is also here to inspire us to keep up the fight right here in Colorado.