Speaking from a UPS customer center, President Obama announces a new public-private program, the Green Fleet Partnership, and discusses his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that will help create jobs and provide America greater energy stability.
The President today laid out a number of measures to help America shift to a clean energy economy, reducing our dependence on oil, protecting our planet, and spurring economic growth through cleaner and more efficient, cars, and trucks.
[O]ne of the best ways to reduce our dependence on oil is by making our cars and trucks more energy efficient, because transportation accounts for more than 70 percent of America’s oil consumption. And by the way, using energy efficient cars and trucks also makes economic sense, because transportation is one of the biggest costs for many businesses and families. So, energy-efficient cars and trucks won’t just cut our dependence on oil; they’ll save us money.
If we’re serious about making the transition from gas-guzzlers to hybrids, we need to show automakers that there’s a real market for these vehicles. We need to show them that if they manufacture fuel efficient cars and trucks, people will actually buy them. In other words, we need to put our money where our mouth is.
I’m proud to say this is one place where the government is leading by example. Right now, the government’s fleet includes more than 600,000 vehicles, making it the single largest fleet in America. That means we have considerable purchasing power, and we’re using it to boost clean energy technologies. Already, we’ve doubled the number of federal cars and trucks that are hybrids, and I’m directing our departments and agencies to make sure 100 percent of the vehicles they buy are fuel-efficient or clean energy cars and trucks by 2015. Not 50 percent, not 75 percent, but 100 percent of our vehicles.
Alongside efforts by the federal government, the President set out measures to help the private sector shift to more fuel-efficient vehicles:That’s why we’re launching a National Clean Fleets Partnership. If you’re a business that needs to transport goods, I’m challenging you to replace your old fleet with a clean energy fleet that’s not only good for your bottom line, but good for our economy, good for our country, and good for our planet. And if you accept this challenge and join our Clean Fleets Partnership, we’ll make a number of tools available—from technical assistance to cutting-edge research and development—that will help you make the transition to a clean energy fleet.
It’s not just about fleets of vehicles there are measures for all cars and trucks on America’s roads. Last year, a national fuel-efficiency standard for cars and trucks was introduced, meaning that new cars will get better gas mileage and this year the first-ever fuel standards for heavy-duty trucks will be announced.
Earlier this week President Obama set a goal for reducing the amount of oil America imports by a third, the measures set out today will help achieve that goal.
Figures released by the U.S. Labor Department, this morning, show that unemployment has fallen to 8.8%. Speaking earlier today, President Obama said:
Nearly two years after one of the worst recessions we’ve ever seen, our economy is showing signs of real strength. Today we learned that we added 230,000 private sector jobs last month. That makes 1.8 million private sector jobs created in the last thirteen months. And the unemployment rate has now fallen a full point in the last four months. The last time that happened was the recovery of 1984.
Now, despite this good news, we still have plenty of work to do. There are still millions of Americans looking for a job that pays the bills. I know there’s a lot going on in the world, and the news is filled with images of the Middle East and Japan, but you should know that keeping the economy growing and making sure jobs are available is the first thing I think about when I wake up every morning. It’s the last thing I think about when I go to bed each night. And I will not be satisfied until every American who wants a good job can find one; until every family gets a shot at the American Dream. That’s our North Star. That’s what we’re fighting for.
Today, the U.S. Labor Department announced that our economy added 216,000 jobs in March, marking 13 consecutive months of growth and totaling more than 1.8 million jobs created over that same period. The unemployment rate also fell to 8.8 percent, which is a full percentage point drop during the past four months and the steepest decline since 1984 over that same period.
Additionally, the Labor Department revised upward the number of jobs created during the previous two months, estimating that the private sector grew by 94,000 in January (from 68,000) and by 240,000 in February (from 222,000).
This news represents a positive trend that America’s economy is growing and creating jobs, but far too many people are still out of work and the pace of the recovery remains too slow. The policies enacted by President Obama over the past two years have created steady economic growth, a drastic change from the economy he inherited, which was shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs per month.
The President will continue supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, collaborating with job creators to eliminate barriers to hiring, and fighting for families struggling to make ends meet.
Speaking this afternoon, the President will highlight the National Clean Fleets Partnership—you can watch the speech live online here.
The National Clean Fleets Partnership is a public-private partnership that will help large companies reduce diesel and gasoline use in their fleets, by incorporating electric vehicles, alternative fuels, and fuel-saving measures into their operations. Earlier this week, the President set a goal of reducing the amount of oil America imports by one-third.
You can watch today’s remarks live online at 12:20 p.m. ET.
For Becca Siegel, being an OFA summer organizer was so rewarding that she took part in the program two years in a row. This summer, OFA is recruiting hard working and dedicated folks like Becca to be summer organizers. You can find out more about the program here.
Q. Why did you apply to be a summer organizer?
A. As a student, deciding how to spend your summer is always a balancing act between what you want to do and what opportunity will be the best resume builder. For the past two summers I’ve found an experience that allowed me to strike that balance—as a summer organizer in Colorado.
Q. What did you do each summer?
A. I built neighborhood teams, organized volunteers, and planned events centered around issues like health reform, and in support of Democratic candidates during the 2010 midterm elections. Each day brought new opportunities and challenges: a meeting with a local activist followed by voter registration at an outdoor concert; a conference call to share best practices with other organizers from around the country followed by volunteering at a community health clinic; a morning canvass in support of a senatorial candidate followed by a rally or an organizational meeting.
Q. What did you learn?
A. During the school year, I am a student at Stanford University. My experience as a summer organizer has served me incredibly well as both a student and a public servant. I helped coordinate voter registration on my own college campus and in surrounding areas, organized workshops for young leaders, and arranged policy events.
My experiences personally empowered me in ways I never could have imagined. I learned how to interact with people of all different backgrounds, I am more focused on individual tasks yet have a better sense of the big picture, and I know how to work as a team player. Most importantly, I now understand that with a lot of hard work, patience, creativity and passion, even the biggest tasks that once seemed impossible to overcome can be accomplished.
Q. Would you recommend the Summer Organizer Program to folks thinking of applying?
A. Absolutely. While most of my friends were sweating away their summers as interns in faceless office buildings, dreading each day that they had to make coffee and file papers, I was out on the field making real connections within communities. I was working with the most talented organizers I know, and making changes that I actually cared about.
As a summer organizer with Organizing for America I had the unique opportunity to develop skills for the future while making a truly meaningful impact on my community and my country. The work was often challenging, but the results were incredibly rewarding.
To have the chance to spend your summer working with folks like Becca and making a difference in your community, apply to take part in OFA's Summer Organizer Program here.
Organizing for America couldn’t exist without the hard work and dedication of volunteers in towns and neighborhoods across the country—who come together to make a difference in their community.
Margy from Rhode Island first became involved with OFA in 2009 during the fight for health reform, making calls to voters in Maine and Ohio, urging them to call their representatives. After the fight for health reform, Margy caught the organizing bug and stayed involved during the mid term elections. Speaking to Maureen Murray from OFA Rhode Island, Margy said:
Calling and talking with voters during OFA phone banks was a wonderful experience in providing accurate and reliable information to voters. I found talking with senior citizens particularly rewarding since they were almost always eager to talk, willing to share, and positive about having been called.
I continue to support President Obama’s work on our recovery, and I’m so pleased that our efforts in Rhode Island were successful.
There are many different ways that volunteers can help out. Shelia, a small business owner from St Louis, Missouri, uses her local connections to help OFA reach out to folks in her neighborhood, as well as hosting a staging location for volunteers and canvassers. Speaking to Marty Crimmins, OFA Missouri new media director, Shelia said:The President asked citizens early on to stay involved in order to make positive change within our communities. He also said the work would not be easy and change will take time. This is why I am giving OFA my time in order to achieve change. Staying involved with OFA keeps me informed and up-to-date on important issues happening in Washington D.C.—issues that impact me and my community.
In Fort Collins, Colorado, Suzanne started out as a volunteer for Obama during the Iowa caucuses. Now a neighborhood team leader, Suzanne plays a key role in her community:We know that we’re growing as volunteers—acquiring new skills and confidence in what we can do—but I’d like to think that we have our fingers on the pulse of the voters. We talk to them during phone banks, canvasses, etc., and I would like to make sure that what we learn about what people are thinking and feeling is going up the line to be used by decision makers. If we don’t, we’re missing out!
Margy, Sheila, Suzanne, and the thousands of volunteers across the country are essential to the success of OFA. If you’d like to make a difference in your, find out more about volunteering with OFA here.
As turmoil around the world continues and gas prices climb higher, President Obama today called for a renewed effort to secure our country’s energy future. For too long, America has been beholden to unstable and fluctuating oil-markets, an addiction that affects prices at the pump, the cost of groceries, and the ability of families to heat their homes.
Today, the President outlined a plan to shake America’s age-old dependence on oil and usher in a new era of cleaner, sustainable, and affordable sources of energy. And the time to act is now:
We cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again. The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity and security on a resource that will eventually run out. Not anymore.
President Obama set a new goal for our country: reduce the amount of oil imported by one-third by 2025. The administration released A Blueprint for A Secure Energy Future that establishes two bottom-line goals:
- Find and produce more oil at home;
- Reduce our dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.
Part of the short-term way to address America’s energy challenge, the administration is encouraging greater offshore oil exploration and production – taking careful precaution to ensure that companies meet standards of safety and responsibility.
However, President Obama made it clear that additional oil production is not a sustainable solution. The President’s plan calls for added collaboration with international partners to increase natural gas supplies and bioenergy production:
[N]ot just ethanol, but biofuels made from things like switchgrass, wood chips, and biomass.
If anyone doubts the potential of these fuels, consider Brazil. Already, more than half – half – of Brazil’s vehicles can run on biofuels. And just last week, our Air Force used an advanced biofuel blend to fly an F-22 Raptor faster than the speed of sound. In fact, the Air Force is aiming to get half of its domestic jet fuel from alternative sources by 2016.
America will work to phase out oil as a primary energy source, but in the meantime, we can accelerate those efforts by making our cars and trucks more efficient as well – 70 percent of oil consumption goes to transportation. That means higher fuel-efficiency standards, which will increase gas mileage, save billions of barrels of oil, and putting thousands of dollars back in the pockets of families.
And the President is ensuring that the federal government will lead by example. He is directing agencies to purchase only alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric vehicles by 2015 – the federal government’s fleet is among the largest in the country. The administration has also made record investments in high-speed rail and mass transit, providing an efficient and cleaner alternative for urban, suburban, and rural Americans.
However, these efforts will not reach their full potential without opening the markets for clean energy. The administration is working with businesses and entrepreneurs to achieve the goal of generating 80 percent of America’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.
It also means making residential, commercial, and industrial buildings more energy efficient. In fact, the administration is already on track to weatherize 600,000 low-income homes through the Recovery Act – and implementing initiatives, such as the HOMESTAR program to help homeowners finance retrofits and the “Better Buildings Initiative” to make commercial facilities 20 percent more efficient by 2020.
In his closing remarks, President Obama spoke directly to the Georgetown students in the audience about the energy challenges confronting our country and the role they must play in helping to find the solutions:
I don’t want to leave this challenge for future presidents. I don’t want to leave it for my children. And I do not want to leave it for yours. Solving it will take time and effort. It will require our brightest scientists, our most creative companies, and, most importantly, all of us – Democrats, Republicans, and everyone in between – to do our part. But with confidence – in America, in ourselves, and in one another – I know it is a challenge we will solve.
Click here to read the President’s full remarks.
Today, at 11:20 a.m. Eastern Time, President Obama will deliver a speech at Georgetown University regarding the future of America’s energy security. This speech will outline the President’s plan to diversify our country’s energy portfolio, reducing our dependence on foreign oil while also developing and producing cleaner and more sustainable energy sources. It’s a plan to help create jobs and ensure greater stability for American families.
Watch the speech live at whitehouse.gov/live beginning at 11:20 a.m. ET.
Throughout March, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have been visiting schools around the country talking to students, parents, and teachers about the best ways to make sure that all our students get the best possible education.
At the heart of a good education, is a good teacher. Writing on the White House blog, Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, lays out how the administration is helping recruit the next generation of great teachers.
One of the greatest challenges facing our country is the coming retirement of more than 1 million baby boomer teachers. This challenge has presented us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help reshape education in America by recruiting and training the next generation of great American teachers.
Teaching is a rewarding and challenging profession where you can make a lasting impact. Teachers have a positive influence on students, schools, and communities, now and into the future. Schools across the nation are in need of a diverse set of talented teachers, especially in our big cities and rural areas, and especially in the areas of math, science, technology, special education, and English language learning.
That’s why the department launched the TEACH campaign—a bold new initiative to inspire and empower the most talented and dedicated Americans to become teachers. We know that, next to parental support, there is nothing more important to a child’s education than the quality of his or her teachers.
Together, we can change the face of American education. We can recruit the next generation of great American teachers.
President Obama took part in a town hall meeting on education at Bell Multicultural High School, a dual-language school situated in Washington, D.C. The event was hosted by the Spanish-language channel Univision—you can watch it online here in English and here in Spanish.
Hispanics are both the largest and fastest-growing minority group (currently 54 million), and yet they have the lowest education attainment levels of any group in the country. Answering questions from students, parents, and teachers yesterday, the President addressed many of the issues that are a barrier to success.
This is an issue that’s not just important for the Latino community here in the United States; this is an issue that is critical for the success of America generally, because we already have a situation where one out of five students are Latino in our schools, and when you look at those who are 10 years old or younger, it’s actually one in four. So what this means is, is that our workforce is going to be more diverse; it is going to be, to a large percentage, Latino. And if our young people are not getting the kind of education they need, we won’t succeed as a nation.
Now, there are some things that we know work. To the extent that young people are getting a good start in school and are falling behind, they’re less likely to drop out. So that’s why it’s important for us to invest in early childhood education. And my budget makes sure that we put more money into that. In K through 12, we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the highest-quality teachers. We have to make sure that we have parental involvement so that we are building a culture in our community.
Language barriers for Spanish-speaking parentsNow, if they don't speak English, then it’s important for those schools to think about strategies to have translators in the schools to help them communicate with the teachers and the principals. If it turns out that the school budgets are tight and they can’t afford to hire translators, then we should enlist community members who are bilingual to come in and volunteer on parent-teacher meetings.
We had a conference at the White House where we convened interested groups from across the country—parent organizations, philanthropies, student organizations—to find ways that—strategies that we could put in place to reduce bullying.
Now, one of the most powerful tools, it turns out, is students themselves. And there are schools where young people have done surveys to find out how much bullying is taking place in school and how secure do you feel in the classroom. And then the students themselves started an entire campaign in the schools to say, we’re not going to tolerate bullying, and in fact, if we see somebody bullying, we’re going to call them out on it. And that peer pressure could actually end up making as much of a difference as just about anything.
The cost of going to college
Here’s what we’ve done over the last two years. First of all, we increased the level of Pell Grants so now you can get up to $800 more in Pell Grants every year than you were able to do two years ago because of changes that we made.
We also made Pell Grants available to millions more students around the country. So we expanded eligibility so that more young people could get access to student loans and grants that would help them pay for college.
Access to programs like Head Start, child care and early childhood education
The Latino community is a young population and so there are a lot of young kids, so they need high-quality early childhood education, high-quality day care, high-quality Head Start programs, more than just about any other community. Unfortunately, actually, they are under-represented in these programs, and we need to do more to provide that kind of support. So in our new budget we’re also putting additional resources into early childhood education.
And so we're doing a lot of work in improving professional development and the quality of the programs, even as we increase the money to support subsidies for those programs.
Recruiting more Latino teachers
We’re working to figure out how to do more recruitment in historically black colleges and universities, in Hispanic-serving institutions. We need to get in there and say to young people, consider teaching as a career. And I know that that’s something that [Education Secretary] Arne Duncan has emphasized.
So we’ve got to go to where the students are, get them early, get them in the pipeline, provide them the outstanding training that they need, and make sure then they’re supported as they go through. Because part of the challenge in teaching, it’s not just enough to recruit the teacher. Once the teacher is in the classroom, they’ve got to have support systems in place, professional development in place, so that they can learn their trade.
In his State of the Union address the President put education at the heart of his agenda—improving failing schools, introducing innovation and technology into the classroom, reforming No Child Left Behind, and tackling bullying.
President Obama addressed the nation last night, updating the American people on the situation in Libya. The President praised America's men and women in uniform—describing the actions taken with international allies and partners to protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Moammar Qaddafi, the transition to NATO command and control, and America’s policy going forward.
You can read the full remarks here
Tonight starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time, President Obama will speak to the American public about the ongoing situation in Libya. Over the several days, the United States has joined an international coalition to protect the Libyan people from government attacks and to institute a no fly zone, a mission that is limited, clear, and focused.
As the President said in his Weekly Address:
We’re succeeding in our mission. We’ve taken out Libya’s air defenses. Qaddafi’s forces are no longer advancing across Libya. In places like Benghazi, a city of some 700,000 that Qaddafi threatened to show “no mercy,” his forces have been pushed back. So make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians—innocent men, women and children—have been saved.
As I pledged at the outset, the role of American forces has been limited. We are not putting any ground forces into Libya. Our military has provided unique capabilities at the beginning, but this is now a broad, international effort. Our allies and partners are enforcing the no fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea. Key Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have committed aircraft. And as agreed this week, responsibility for this operation is being transferred from the United States to our NATO allies and partners.
Watch tonight at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time online at Whitehouse.gov, or check your local listings for T.V. coverage in your area.
Events marking the one-year anniversary of health reform continued across the country this weekend, with folks coming together to remember last year's campaign and to tell their stories of how they are being helped by the new law.
Roosevelt Lyons, an OFA regional field director in Missouri, is one of millions of Americans benefiting from the Affordable Care Act:
As a young child, I suffered from severe asthma. I was hospitalized several times, and there was a time when they were not sure if I was going to survive.
I remember one Fourth of July holiday, as my family and I watched the fire works display, my mom and dad were discussing his paycheck. I remember looking at it—it was 99 dollars. At the time I thought it was a lot of money, my dad laughed. He drove a cement truck and later I found out he kept that job, even though it did not pay well, because he was worried about finding insurance for me if he left his job.
Years later, as an adult with a child, I found myself working in a factory here in Kansas City. The job was really bad for my asthma—I had to breathe in large amounts of dust and other chemicals. I worked that job for almost two years, making myself sicker, so that my family could have health insurance.
Now that the Affordable Care Act is law, provisions make it mandatory that insurance companies cover children with pre-existing conditions, and come 2014 insurers will no longer be allowed to deny coverage—American workers will no longer have to stay locked in a job in order to insure their children.
OFA volunteers in Santa Fe, New Mexico, spoke to Pamela Coleman, regional field director, about their experiences during the campaign for health reform:"Sometimes we don't feel as though we have any power with politicians but really, when you think about it, we can make our positions known. We just need to be organized!” Maggie, OFA volunteer
"It's up to us, you know, to make a difference. If we sit back, nothing gets done. It just gets done to us. We made the Affordable Care Act happen. If we helped the President do that, well, there's not much that we can't do!" Alice, OFA volunteer
The efforts of OFA volunteers last year helped secure the passage of the Affordable Care Act one year ago. You can find out how it’s helping you and your friends by taking the Health Reform Checkup.
OFA's success depends on the hard work and talents of volunteers across the country—folks who come together to organize, and make a difference in their communities.
Ryan, who was in high school during the 2008 election, has been volunteering with OFA since the 2010 mid term elections:
As a politically savvy high school student in 2008, the eloquent words of President-elect Barack Obama in Chicago on Election Night illustrated a future presidency of tremendous change.
Following two years of promises kept, President Obama and Democrats faced tough races from the Republican party in the mid terms. But volunteers proved that Organizing for America and passionate young Americans can still shape change.
A political science major at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., by day and a volunteer at night, I maintained tremendous confidence that the pundits were wrong—that they were counting us out much too early. Making hundreds of calls to states like Ohio, Colorado, and Florida, I can say that the work of OFA left an impact on the electorate.
On Election Night, volunteers made many phone calls for Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) who ultimately won by a slim margin. Results like these make me believe the work done here is not minuscule or obscure. We are shaping change.
Following the mid terms, I returned to OFA as an intern. In the nation’s capital, the interaction with people directly—whether it be volunteers or voters over the phone—is remarkable. It was especially uplifting to make phone calls to Ohio during the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” So many Ohioans, young and old, expressed their support for repeal adamantly and passionately. With such support, it reminds me of our hopeful, forward thinking, ambition for change, and resiliency against the toughest of challenges.
Organizing for America represents more than an idea. It is an institution for creating actual change. It is an institution for the advocacy of democratic values. It is an institution that rolls up its sleeves and works through the grit and grime, but never gives up—never falters. It is an expression of myself and I am proud to have the chance to be a part of it all. I shape change. My generation shapes change. Organizing for America shapes change.
You can find out more about getting involved with Organizing for America in your community here.
In his weekly address, President Obama talks about the military mission in Libya and the progress that has been made—and he praises the bravery of our men and women in uniform.Every American can be proud of the lives we’ve saved in Libya and of the service of our men and women in uniform who once again have stood up for our interests and our ideals. And people in Libya and around the world are seeing that the United States of America stands with those who hope for a future where they can determine their own destiny.
Organizing for America has been marking the one-year anniversary of health reform this week with events across the country—from letter-to-the-editor writing parties to panel discussions, from press conferences to informational booths.
The Bangor Daily News in Maine reports:
As Penobscot Community Health Care President Robert Carlson sees it, the reform effort will double the number of Americans receiving services from 20 million to 40 million over the next five years. “When people are covered, they will access primary and preventive care,” Carlson said. That’s important, he said, because providing access to such services, which include tests and screenings, can result in significant savings over the long haul.
Tuesday’s event was hosted by the Maine chapter of Organizing for America, a grass-roots project of the Democratic National Committee. “In just one year, millions of Americans have already begun to feel the positive effects of the Affordable Care Act,” Andrew Kain, Maine director of Organizing for America, noted in a news release.
With unprecedented patient protections and benefits, families no longer need to worry that their children could be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition or that they could be denied critical care after hitting a lifetime limit. Under provisions of the federal act, seniors now are eligible for free preventive care and wellness visits with their doctor and are paying less out of pocket for prescription drugs, he said.
In Pennsylvania OFA supporters came together to share stories of how health reform is already helping them and the people they know:
Dorothy J. shared what the Affordable Care Act means for her:
“When my son turned 18 he was kicked off my insurance. He couldn’t afford health insurance, and was uninsured when he got in a serious accident. He could not afford his medical bills. But now he doesn’t have to worry about being uninsured. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, he was able to go back on my health insurance plan until he turns 26. Now my worries are put at ease.”
OFA events across the country brought together new and long-standing supporters, some celebrated with cake, others heard from members of Congress who voted for health reform and folks who have been helped by the improvements the Affordable Care Act. Volunteers reached out to small business owners and young people to let them know how health reform is helping them.
To find out how health reform is helping you and those you know take the Health Reform Checkup—and then let your friends and family know.
For Elyse, there was no sound to signify what happened in the memory banks, no sonic signpost and no brief mental flash of the crash for later recall. Just complete oblivion, and then a hospital bed, and the beeping of monitors.“The accident completely destroyed me,” she says.
Elyse Ruiz’s life and face had been shattered, a tragic end to a weekend night. She was getting a late-night ride home in an old cushy Buick, from a friend of a friend, with a car full of people. She got stuck in the middle seat, with no seatbelt. The driver was drunk, and he drove the old car headfirst into a wall. She had driven her own car out that night as the designated driver but had let one of her friends, who wanted to go home early, take her car back.
Elyse went through the windshield, and she’s lucky to be alive. She broke both cheekbones, as well as her jaw and one of her eye sockets. She had facial lacerations and a concussion to her frontal lobe. Her recovery was long and tedious, and there were complications—she had a lymph node removed when her jaw got infected. Her last surgery was in December 2009; the car accident was in the summer of 2008.“I was lucky. Because I was in school, I had insurance through my mom. Without coverage we would have [gone] under; my ambulance bill alone was [around] $50,000. I would have had to drop out of school and been working as many jobs as I could just to pay my medicals bills,” she explains.
She had to go back to school prematurely. Her concussion wasn’t fully healed, and she struggled with a workload she normally breezed through. Before the accident and heading into her last semester at school, Elyse was a student leader, getting good grades. The severity of her concussion meant it took a while to get her reading comprehension and processing speed back to her pre-accident levels. She also reached the end of her scholarship, which only lasted four years, and had to take out loans for her final semester.
Elyse fought through all of this adversity, graduating and getting involved in the fight for health care reform as a community organizer.
Thanks to health reform, Elyse can stay on her mother’s policy until she is 26. She lives at home with her mom in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is trying to save money for graduate school.“If it wasn’t for the Affordable Care Act, I wouldn’t have insurance right now. I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
And for Elyse, this coverage is crucial, because she still needs expensive regular checkups with her surgeon.
Working as a retail manager right now, Elyse is looking forward to being involved in grassroots organizing again and being involved in changing the country. She has the opportunity to head to Iowa to work as an organizer.“Along the health care trail, there wasn’t a family I met who wasn’t touched in some way by the health care issue,” she says, talking about how important it is to her to try and make a difference. “You hear stories that put your own situation into perspective, that break your heart, and you begin to think that you are lucky.”
This summer hardworking, dedicated folks will have the opportunity to take part in Organizing for America’s Summer Organizer Program. Folks like Victoria Kempter, who took part in the program in the summer OF 2010.
Q. Why did you apply to the Summer Organizer Program?
A. I worked as a summer organizer between my junior and senior years of college. As a big Obama fan, it was a great opportunity to work with his grassroots organization, and to develop skills that I needed for a job my senior year.
Q. What did you do?
A. My summer project was to help organize the first-ever Organizing for America Statewide Convention in New Mexico. We ended up having about 80 volunteers from all across the state attend, along with representatives from the statewide campaigns. It was a great learning experience for understanding the process of organizing large events and it went off flawlessly.
Q. What did you learn?
A. As it turned out, the experience of organizing a large event has helped me a lot with my job this year. From logistics to recruiting attendees, my work as a summer organizer has helped me to develop successful programs at my own university. OFA is great with social media, and I learned how to use it more advantageously than before.
As a graduating senior, my work as a summer organizer has certainly improved my resume, and it often sparks interest and conversation.
Q. What would you say to encourage others to apply?
A. The summer organizing position is a great way to connect with other people in your area who are passionate about the same issues as you. It is a great way to learn more about your local, state, and federal government and to make you feel like you are part of something bigger.
If you’re interested in becoming a summer organizer like Victoria you can apply here.
Across the country OFA supporters have been coming together to celebrate the first anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law.
The work that OFA volunteers did, campaigning for health reform, helped secure passage of the legislation.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, OFA hosted a panel discussion about the benefits of health reform. Pam Coleman, OFA New Mexico state field director, spoke to supporters who came:
"I can't believe it's been a year since I sat in this office making phone calls helping voters understand how important it was for their representative to vote YES in support of health care," said Mary. "This panel was really helpful in helping me understand how the health exchange figures into the ACA," added Bill.
"I'm one of those people who was immediately helped," said Maria, "because of the closing of the donut hole for prescription drugs. I'm so happy to tell everyone I meet about how President Obama helped all of us with the Affordable Care law."
OFA Ohio held events across the state:
In Canton volunteers Barbra, Carol, Denise, and Cynthia visited the office of Congressman Jim Renacci (R-OH) to deliver the names of constituents who support the Affordable Care Act.
Over in Xenia volunteers gathered with medical care providers to share stories about the positive impact the Affordable Care Act has had on their communities, businesses, family finances, and personal health. The evening featured a call from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and Surgeon General Vice-Admiral Regina Benjamin.
OFA supporters hosted a stall at the University of Florida with information for students on how they can benefit from health reform. Ashley Bauman, OFA Florida press secretary, reports:
Volunteers took the time to ensure [students] had a good understanding of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and how it benefited not only young adults but also children, women, seniors, and small businesses.
“Joanne, a cancer survivor, stopped by and told her health care story. She ensured that everyone knew how proud she was of the President for keeping his promise about those with pre-existing conditions and how, by 2014, they will no longer be denied health insurance coverage.
In Norristown, Pennsylvania, volunteers came together to write letters to the editor about how health reform is helping them and their families. Kerri Axelrod, OFA Pennsylvania communications director, spoke to one of the volunteers:
Dianna M. came out to the event because she is one of the 216,666 in Pennsylvania who are currently benefiting from free preventative care and prescription drug discounts.
“The Affordable Care Act provides discount prescription drugs for me and my family members who fall into the Medicare Part D donut-hole. The Affordable Care Act gives me the peace of mind to know that I can get the care I need to prevent illnesses and when I get sick.”
You can find out how health reform is working for you and the people in your life by taking the Health Reform Checkup.