National Nurses United Conversation With Dr. Jane O’Meara Sanders
On Thursday September 21, Dr. Jane O’Meara Sanders (Co-founder, Fellow of the Sanders Institute) joined RoseAnn DeMoro of National Nurses United to talk about Medicare for All and the need for civil discourse.
DR. JANE O’MEARA SANDERS: I want to thank all of the nurses that are here today and around the world. You have been, forever a source of comfort and nurturing for all of your patients. I can’t thank you enough, from a personal standpoint and every single person across this room and across the country have had the experience of nurses being there to ease the pain and the stress. Beyond that, you have been an unbelievable source of progressive labor. You have made a difference. The nurses have been a beacon of leadership, doing the right thing, not settling and making incremental changes. You’re holding out a vision and holding other people accountable for it. The impact you have had has been amazing, and we will get Medicare for All thanks to you in large part. Last, but certainly not least, to the RN nurses who are going all over to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and all over – thank you. Everybody should know about the work you do.
One of the things people always ask me is how did you get into this, when did you become politically interested? Oddly enough, it started in healthcare. My dad was a teacher, and he fell and broke his hip. He was in the hospital for the better part of every year until I was 14. We just thought that was the way he was – my dad was ill, and it changed our life. My mom went to secretarial school to get anouther job. I had four brothers, the older two quit high school to support the family. My brother Benny became a blacksmith in Brooklyn. He just loved horses, my dad used to bring him to Prospect Park to ride horses when he was a little kid. He became quite well known as a trainer and came into quite a good living.
When I was 14, my dad was in the hospital again, and Benny asked the doctor to check him head to toe because there has to be an underlying problem. The doctor said the insurance wouldn’t pay for it, so we can only deal with the existing problem. Benny said, “you know I do that for my horses, and I’ll pay cash.” So he did. And they checked him out – and my dad wasn’t in the hospital for another ten years.
For me, that was my political awakening. If you had money, if you could afford to buy good insurance, you could have good health. And that to me just didn’t seem fair. So that has stuck with me forever, and my whole life I’ve been trying to do what’s fair, trying to even the playing field. And that’s why the Sanders Institute is starting. I founded the Sanders Institute with our son, Dave Driscoll, who reminds me a lot of my father and brother. He and I believe that we need to have a fair, level playing field. We launched at the People’s Summit on June 7th, and that was really successful, thank you so much, RoseAnn. The seminars that we put on there were very successful, and we are going to be increasing those across the country. We’ll talk about economics, healthcare, democracy, and we’ll be talking with our professors to determine what we should be expanding our thinking of. One of the first things we did was publish a report on Medicare for All. As a nonprofit, we can’t lobby for anything in particular, but there was no bill then. We published that report and went around to every Senate and House office and delivered them the report on Medicare for All.
We believe a vital democracy requires an informed electorate, civil discourse, and bold, progressive ideas. The mission of the Sanders Institute is to revitalize democracy by actively engaging individuals, organizations, and the media in the pursuit of progressive solutions to economic, environmental, racial, and social justice issues.
Another reason we set up the Institute is to serve as progressive counterweight to the conservative and moderate organizations that currently set the frameworks of the debate, and it’s very narrow. We’re not interested in discussing what they think is possible in today’s climate, we’re interested in if it’s right. We’re interested in creating a vision for the future and identifying the steps or leaps required to get there.
Because amid the nonstop, all-crisis-all-the-time tweet storm that is Donald J. Trump, thought itself – careful, critical, analytical thought – seems to be an endangered species. At the Sanders Institute, we intend to counteract that. We choose to stay focused on our vision on the issues that affect people’s lives, rather than getting caught up in the scandals or interparty and intraparty squabbles.
The current administration won’t be around forever, we’re working to create more of a dialogue with the people that put him there or are fighting him now to bring people together – not to the center, but to find out why do people want what they want? We believe in civil discourse. I don’t believe that all the people that voted for this administration believe the things he espouses. We need to pay attention to the issues to bring people together on a common ground that doesn’t just say, “Okay, from the left, from the right, let’s go to the center.” That’s what you’ll hear from the media, and it’s exactly the wrong way to go about it. There is no left, there is no right, there is right and wrong. There is coming together to say government works for the people. Thank you.”