As we celebrate the accomplishment of landmark legislation on health care, we must acknowledge for history the role of several Presidents of both parties who saw health care as a right for all Americans.
The fight has gone on for nearly a hundred years now, since Theodore Roosevelt first enunciated the idea in his 1912 Progressive Party platform.
Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke about it as a basic human right in his 1941 speech to Congress.
Harry Truman first promoted formal legislation on health care in the late 1940s, but it was stopped by a coalition of conservative Republicans and southern Democrats.
John F. Kennedy promoted Medicare, but could not get it past the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, a Southern Democrat.
Lyndon B. Johnson accomplished both Medicare in 1965 and Medicaid in 1966, overcoming the opposition of Wilbur Mills, the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee.
Richard Nixon came up with a health care plan which was rejected, sadly, for partisan reasons in the early 1970s.
Bill Clinton made the most massive effort for Health Care reform in 1993 and 1994, but it was rejected by Republicans and conservative Democrats.
Now, Barack Obama, with the full support and aggressiveness of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has gained what seven past Presidents worked on but could not fully achieve!
So let us salute and hail the seven former Presidents who had the guts, the courage, and the principles to make progress, no matter how limited, toward the ultimate goal that now has made Barack Obama an historic President!
When Obama is no longer President, and after his lifetime, Health Care reform will be part of the basic biography of this principled, dedicated man, who made his country a better place, as other great and near great Presidents have done!