In his weekly address commemorating the 50th anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare, President Obama celebrated the Affordable Care Act, which is “finishing the job” started by President Johnson five decades earlier.
But as Americans, we declared that our citizens deserve a basic measure of security and dignity. And today, the poverty rate for seniors is less than half of what it was fifty years ago. Every American over 65 has access to affordable health care. And today, we’re finally finishing the job — since I signed the Affordable Care Act into law, the uninsured rate for all Americans has fallen by about one-third.
These promises we made as a nation have saved millions of our own people from poverty and hardship, allowing us new freedom, new independence, and the chance to live longer, better lives. That’s something to be proud of. It’s heroic. These endeavors — these American endeavors — they didn’t just make us a better country. They reaffirmed that we are a great country.
And, in a not-too-subtle knock on ACA detractors, the President explains that this law will create “the freedom to live our lives as we want.”
Today, these programs are so fundamental to our way of life that it’s easy to forget how hard people fought against them at the time. When FDR created Social Security, critics called it socialism. When JFK and LBJ worked to create Medicare, the cynics said it would take away our freedom. But ultimately, we came to see these programs for what they truly are — a promise that if we work hard, and play by the rules, we’ll be rewarded with a basic measure of dignity, security, and the freedom to live our lives as we want.
It’s a promise that previous generations made to us, and a promise that our generation has to keep.
This speech will go somewhere in my book.