Robert Pensack: An appeal to all Americans
February 10, 2008
Steamboat Springs — On Nov. 22, 1963, while in my eighth-grade study hall at my high school, at age 13, an announcement came over the public address system that President John F. Kennedy Jr. had been shot and killed in Dealy Plaza in Dallas. I still remember the disbelief, shock and sadness that ran through my classmates and left me forever cynical about the forces of good versus evil that affect human existence and all of our life experiences here on this planet.
Kennedy represented to the majority of Americans and to the world community a unifying, humane and dignified American and world leader who embodied intellect, patriotism, courage and hope.
I grew up with a genetic form of heart disease called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which killed my mother when I was 4 and crippled my brother and I in our adolescent and young adult years. We both went on to receive life-saving cardiac transplants as adults, and we are both alive today at ages 60 and 57, respectively.
As teens, my brother and I were the lucky recipients of the best that medicine had to offer, as we both received incredible medical care at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the government-funded medical research facility that administers almost all of the meaningful medical research that this country carries out.
As a patient and beneficiary of government-run and government-funded medical research and care, I was fortunate enough to have my life saved on multiple occasions by a system that was, dare I say, nationalized or socialized. Life-threatening diseases are, in general, treated with the best expertise at our finest academic institutions of health care research. These are, for the most part, our University Medical Centers, the most blatant example of socialized medicine that exists in our country. The physicians who make up the staff at most of these institutions are paid by a governmental system funded by “We The People” of this great country. These physicians are, for the most part, motivated by a genuine thirst for knowledge and a desire to heal the sick. They work relentlessly for a system that pays them a fraction of what they could make in private practice. They represent the “Gold Standard” of excellence in our system of health care, and they are, for the most part, state government employees. So much for the argument that the quality of health care will go down if we have government-run and government-delivered health care.
Our teachers, firefighters, policemen, soldiers and most of our public servants are the real heroes of our society, and they should be encouraged and rewarded accordingly.
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We need a change in the direction our culture has taken. We need to start caring about the future of each other and our planet. We need to create a society where knowledge is revered, where intellectual and cultural pursuits are encouraged, not mocked or frowned upon.
We need to choose a leader who is highly intelligent, compassionate, courageous, strong, fair and just, ethical, moral and honest. A person who can motivate us to focus on our common struggle as humans. A person who puts what is right first and emphasizes our common needs and desires as Americans and human beings. A person who will not bow down or cower to the power mongers who bully the world into doing what makes them wealthier and more powerful at any cost. A leader who can reach across to our adversaries and make a common peace with them so that we as a people can flourish and thrive as inhabitants of our common planet.
In my lifetime, I have never seen a politician who inspires the kind of hope in me that I last felt when listening to John, Bobby and Martin.
In 2004, I heard Sen. Barack Obama speak on TV as the keynote speaker at the National Democratic Convention. My heart and mind were inspired, as if struck by a lightning bolt from memories of past decades. I am not supporting Obama because he is a liberal Democrat or because he is the first serious potential African-American president. I am supporting him because he stirs in me the kind of passion and pride and hope that JFK, RFK and MLK inspired in me as a 13-year-old eighth-grader back in 1963. He represents all that is good about our American dream and our American ideals. He has the ability to unite us and cast aside our differences for the betterment of our country and our society.
I hope that all of you will throw away party affiliations and vote for Sen. Barack Obama to be our next president of the United States.