'It's a huge honor': Minn. grad inspired by Obama's message
DULUTH, Minn. -- An appeal from the president of the United States got her attention, Duluth East graduate Shannon Grace-Anderson said. "What really struck me was at the very end he said the citizens are actually the most powerful," Grace-Anderso...
DULUTH, Minn. - An appeal from the president of the United States got her attention, Duluth East graduate Shannon Grace-Anderson said.
"What really struck me was at the very end he said the citizens are actually the most powerful," Grace-Anderson said. "My takeaway was to continue to speak up and have the courage to say: Here's what the benefits are."
President Barack Obama made his case for citizens to speak up in defense of his administration's Affordable Care Act during a session Grace-Anderson attended Friday morning at Blair House, the common name for the President's Guest House in Washington.
With Republican Donald Trump about to take office as president and Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, they've declared repeal of the health reform widely known as Obamacare to be at the top of their agenda.
Obama's counteroffensive included a meeting with Democratic leaders in Congress earlier this week. Friday, he took his case to the people in the form of an interview by Vox journalists Ezra Klein and Sarah Kliff. Grace-Anderson, a registered nurse who works at a community health center in Madison, Wis., was among about 50 people in the audience. Half were from the Washington media; the rest consisted of people chosen from the Vox Facebook page and people like Grace-Anderson, who had written letters to Obama about the Affordable Care Act.
Grace-Anderson's letter, written shortly after the presidential election, told Obama that the percentage of patients she sees who are uninsured decreased from 50 percent to 14 percent because of the act's provisions.
In the interview on Friday, which Vox broadcast live on YouTube and Facebook, Obama challenged Republicans not to repeal the Affordable Care Act without offering a replacement.
"Now is the time when Republicans have to show their cards," he said. "The strategy of repeal first and replace later is just a huge disservice to the American people."
The interview lasted more than an hour with Obama providing long, detailed answers to the journalists from Vox, an online news service that focuses on policy.
"I was teasing Ezra and Sarah - this is like a wonkapalooza," Obama joked at one point.
Grace-Anderson noted the detailed nature of the discussion. "It was definitely wonky," she said with a chuckle.
But she said she was inspired not just by Obama but by the stories of the people around her. She heard accounts of people with cancer, or whose children had disabilities and went uninsured, or who were disqualified from coverage because of pre-existing conditions before Obamacare.
"To hear people's stories is absolutely amazing," said Grace-Anderson, who is the daughter of Cole and Ruthann Grace of Lakewood Township.
After his closing remarks, Obama shook hands with people in the front row of the audience and then strode from the room.
"I was close. I was a row away. I didn't get to shake his hand," Grace-Anderson said, admitting that was a slight disappointment. "But it's a huge honor just to be in the room. I'm kind of on cloud nine."