Saturday, August 8, 2009

Hubert H. Humphrey and the Current Health Care Legislation

Humphrey speaking to the 1948 Democratic National Convention. Many have called it one of the greatest speeches in the history of American politics [listen to it if you'd like].

How I remember Hubert! How we need him now!
by Charlie Leck

Hubert Humphrey died in the cold of winter in 1978. In the evening of the day they buried him, I went to the cemetery that was only a few blocks from where I was living at the time. There hadn’t been room in the big church in St. Paul where the funeral was held. There was no way to crowd into the burial service. I had watched it all unfold on the television.

Now, on a cold January night, a day or two before I was scheduled to fly to France to make a new home for awhile, I was out on the sidewalk that ran along the cemetery. I leaned up against the heavy, wrought-iron fence and peered in at the spot where they had laid him.

I am not ashamed to say that tears streamed down my face. I was racked with pain and sorrow that the great man was gone.

On the day after he had died, I penned a long essay about him. It, like most of the things I wrote in those days, has been lost. It was a volatile time in my life – too many homes, too many moves and too much chaos. I remember, however vaguely, the way the essay began.
“I am living now, for the first time in my life, on a day that does not include Hubert Humphrey in my life or in this world. I do not like it. The day seems bleak, sad and lonely. This world is not as good as it was yesterday, when he still took breaths.”
Hubert H. Humphrey was a great Minnesotan and an extraordinary American. I won’t tell you his story here. Most of you know it anyway and that is not my purpose. Geez, he was a great man!

I just want to say that I know where Hubert Humphrey would be on this health care issue and the current legislative debate in Congress. He’d be out front. He would join hands with Ted Kennedy and he’d be a real leader on the issue. He wouldn’t be waffling like the current Democratic leadership. He’d be charging!

You want to know where Hubert would be on this issue. Just listen to him – try to hear that unusual voice and the magical cadence and watch him shaking his fist high above his head.
“You go bankrupt in wars. No nation ever lost its life trying to save life. You lose your life when you take life, and I ask the labor movement to really, once again, become the idealistic conscience of American politics.

“Too many people in politics today are afraid. They are afraid, they say, 'Oh, they won't go for this.' Well, I knew they wouldn't go for civil rights in 1948. I knew they
wouldn't go for Medicare in 1949. I knew they wouldn't go for the Peace Corps in 1958. And I knew they wouldn't go, if you please, for the arms control and disarmament agency in 1959, but ultimately, they did.

“If you are going to be in politics, you have to be a soldier in the battlefield. You know there are risks, there is no guarantee of your life, but as somebody once said, I would
rather live fifty years like a tiger than a hundred years like a chicken."
I can hear you, sir, up there, rattling the cages and beating the drums and gathering the votes. Nobody did it as well as you did and another one of those times has rolled around when we deeply, deeply miss you.

Thanks to Bob Meeks for reminding us of these words of Hubert Humphrey.

No comments:

Post a Comment