But today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I was fortunate enough to attend the Unity Breakfast in Birmingham. The theme of the breakfast was "Health Care: A Personal Responsibility and a Human Right."
My first observation was about the diversity there. Color, sexual orientation, religion, even political party - not!
I did not see one person that I could identify or suspect was a republican. That is not surprising, as they seek to divide, rather than unite. But I digress - that goes more with my future topic.
I could write much about the event, but I want to focus on the 2nd place Essay winner, Trenton Z. Hearns, a senior at Jess Lanier High School in Bessemer. Twenty-two essays were submitted, and the top three received recognition along with a monetary award. Congratulations to Trenton. Here is his essay.
Health Care: A Personal Responsibility and a Human Right
The year is 2009, and The House of Representatives recently passed the most inclusive health care bill in our nation’s history. Yet, it took the nation, whose Declaration of Independence suggests life as a divine right to every human, two hundred forty-five years to pass a bill that would enhance the quality of any of its citizen’s lives. An even more astounding reality, finance is a component of the reason many of these soon-to-be health care newcomers have been denied this lifeline for so long. So health care, once an intangible amenity to minorities, has become scarcely available to Americans despite ethnicity. Also, in a millennium where the economy of the world’s wealthiest nation is gasping for breath, some citizens are left without jobs. In most cases, employers supplement the individual’s health care costs. Now, what is to come of the unemployed aside from a new burden, which was once a beneficial service?
The United States of America’s Declaration of Independence clearly lists life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as man’s unalienable rights from God. One’s right to optimal physical and mental health affects the quality and longevity of this right to live, especially when accessibility is the limiting factor. While in Chicago at the 1966 National Convention of the Medical committee of Human Rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Furthermore, any factors negatively affecting the God-given right of life can, by common knowledge of good and evil, be deemed wicked by all men. This nation under God has gone nearly three centuries depriving many citizens of health care, a necessity. This deprivation has made health care so limited that it has been considered a luxury by many of those who could not afford it and an amenity to those who could afford it.
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death,” is what Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. told other concerned religious leaders in a meeting at Riverside Church in New York City in his speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” (April 4, 1967). Fortunately, this health care plan is a newly implemented program of upward mobility. Unfortunately, this country waited forty-two years after hearing this statement to take action. Finance should not be one of the reasons forty million adult citizens did not receive health care in 2005, while the government splurged on an eighty-five billion dollar shopping spree in Iraq that same year. Since when has the preservation of life in America become a stepchild to the government? Evidently, this nation under God was indeed facing Dr. King’s predicted spiritual demise.
As well as those in poverty, the rest of the country recently found itself in a deficit that persists today. In 2008, the United States suffered its worst economic decline since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. As the economy declined in the United States, the number of unemployed citizens soared. In that same year, one hundred fifty-eight million non-elderly Americans were covered by employer-sponsored insurance and two million, six hundred thousand Americans were unemployed. The newly unemployed citizens, who relied on their employers to supplement health care costs, were now either totally uninsured because of unemployment and prior inability to afford health care, or struggling to keep the services they had become accustomed to. Thus making health care, a right, their personal responsibility. Who values working Americans more, employers who provide health benefits or a government that has not matched those benefits?
Thankfully, those Americans along with many more will not be missing these essential services any longer. The new health care legislation will cover ninety-six percent of Americans. Injustice-free, this grants health care to Americans despite health condition or income. Finally, this nation under god has extended an offer to its citizens that will prolong the quality of their life, liberty and pursuits of happiness.
I have written about health care being a right in several Western Tribune columns, here a re a couple of recent ones.
Here, from Sept. 30, 2009, and here, Sept. 23, 2009. Also, here is last year's MLK post about King's support of health care.
We can only hope that similar sentiments are being expressed across the country today, but nowhere is the urgency greater than in Massachusetts, where Republican candidate Scott Brown has announced his intention to deny health care to the uninsured in Alabama and across the country, and to allow health care costs to continue to skyrocket, (those were not his words, but that is what he will do) should he win. Let's hope the fair minded people of that state come out in support of Martha Coakley and elect her to the U. S. Senate.
And while we are talking progress, let's hope Birmingham voters can look beyond the outright lies by the Bell campaign about Patrick Cooper and elect Cooper as the new mayor of Birmingham