AURORA, Ill. – The peace movement jumped into the nationwide upsurge for health care reform in a big way last Sunday when two big antiwar organizations in Chicago’s far western suburbs, Aurora Citizens for Peace and Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice, packed a community center to overflow capacity here in a Healthcare Speak Out.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who ran for his party’s nomination in 2008, was the featured speaker on a list that included Illinois leaders of the movements for peace and justice, elected representatives in the Illinois state legislature, Democratic and Green Party activists and a labor journalist.
Kucinich was the first to join Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., in sponsoring H.R. 676, a House bill that would essentially create improved Medicare for all. He, along with Conyers, is among 60 members of the House who have signed a letter saying they cannot support a reform bill that does not include a strong government-run public health care option and a progressive funding mechanism that refrains from adding taxes or any other financial burdens on working families.
The crowd cheered wildly when Kucinich announced that he has been able to add an amendment to the bill emerging from the House that would, if passed, allow states to pursue their own single-payer systems in the near future. They cheered again when he noted, “a state like Illinois could well become one of the first states to make this happen.”
The Ohio congressman received some of his biggest applause when he condemned the “obscene wealth gap that exists in this country” and when he noted that health insurance companies are among the corporations receiving the government sanctioned favors that have created this disparity. “Ultimately,” he said, “the only way to fix this economy is to close this gap.”
Illinois state Rep. Mary Flowers, who has a Chicago district, said the fight was about more than just who has insurance. “The real issue is access to good care,” she said. “We must prevent insurance companies from ever again being able to deny anyone the care they need. The best thing,” she added, “would be to get rid of the insurance companies all together.”
John Wojcik, labor editor of Peoples World, praised the activists who had packed the auditorium. “This fight for health care reform,” he said, “is the opening shot in a struggle that can usher in a whole new era of major reform in the people’ favor. You all deserve credit but you all have a historic responsibility here. The reforms of the 1930s lasted a long time because they were fueled by a powerful and united mass movement that was labor-led.”
“Gatherings like this are part of what it will take to build another such movement that will ensure the big changes we are about to see will also last a long time. This fight for health care reform must therefore be united and it must grow.”
As the crowd jumped up in applause, he said, “Then we will see a tomorrow with big and beautiful things we can only now imagine today.”