Monday, January 28, 2008

Julia's Musings: A Conversation with Ron Pollack

This was my first Families USA Conference. One thing that was striking was the diversity of groups working for one common cause, to improve health care for all people. A wise man once told me that we can get no where if we are all under the table fighting for scraps.

Ron Pollack has succeeded at building a big table full of advocates that represent various ages, races, disabilities, and genders. It is a very impressive table.

I opened my discussion with Mr. Pollack by asking the obvious question, “How do you get so many people to come to the table?”

Ron Pollack answered by giving more wise advice, “Real change, passing meaningful health reform, will need to engage millions upon millions of people from across the country. It is important to get people of different ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds and people who are not viewed as being ideologically in line with where we are. Health care should not be viewed as an issue of the Left. It should transcend politics and party.”

Building consensus within a coalition can be a difficult proposition. I asked Mr. Pollack how Families USA created consensus around their health care agenda. “Many people are open to building consensus and can quickly understand that if you have a larger group you have more strength in the public arena. You need to sort through the tensions and differences and then put attention to what you have in common. Many groups are amenable to that. Nothing creates a desire to work together than a few successes.”

After a long conference that offered a wealth of information I asked Ron Pollack what he would like to see attendees to take away from this conference:

“We may be on the cusp of a potential historic change, depending on what happens in the November elections. If the election turns out with a health care president our job will be to work intensively and cohesively. We must work smart. We must be careful about the opponents of health care reform. They will be disciplined. Those who support health care reform in the past have not been as disciplined. As a result the proponents have helped to contribute to the demise of health care reform. No proposal is going to be perfect but the bottom line is we need to work together to push the process forward and we can not kill it with the shortcomings.”


Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding trite I believe that everyone should attend a Families USA Conference at least once.

The years that I attended the conference it was a great source for information on healthcare but also a source of new thoughts and challenges.

There is also a sense of connection to be experienced. Whenever healthcare is mentioned in the news I listen for the voice of Ron Pollack. Even though I most likely will not hear Ron’s voice I still feel connected to the issue of healthcare in a larger context. Families USA provides the larger context in a manageable way because of the people who attend.

Hearing from the movers and shakers of both the public and private sectors is exciting and fun but to hear from the average Joe and Joann from across the country asking questions of speakers and even challenge their statements reveals the depth of awareness and commitment of people to healthcare reform.

When attending a Families USA Conference you hear from Senators, Representatives, former presidents, presidential candidates, the Speaker and begin to sense that there is a process taking place of which you can take part. Even though you’re hearing from people of influence without YOU supporting the issue and pointing the way they would not know which direction to go.

In the end it will be an elected official who signs a healthcare bill into law but it will have been the people who have made it possible.

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