Sunday, July 22, 2007 7:13 PM

The Growing Storm II: 'SiCKO' Draws Activists Together from Seattle to D.C.

Part 2: Allies for Action

By Donna Smith, American SiCKO

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After an afternoon of Congressional testimony, it was on to dinner, where leaders were gathered representing student activists (Remember the Students for a Democratic Society -- SDS -- folks? Well, students are re-organizing that group), anti-gun violence groups, anti-war groups, the Progressive Democrats of America and my new group -- American Patients for Universal Health Care (APUHC).

We agreed that we need to cooperate on shared and coordinated action. Many groups are doing many things and doing them well. Rather than pursuing countless splintered causes, we must combine many of our efforts to create the necessary conditions for political change.

Many people acknowledged, as Tony Benn did so eloquently in 'SiCKO,' that the people who hold the key to change are those who feel powerless -- the poor, the frightened and the demoralized.

We need the voices of people who are locked in an every day struggle for survival -- paying the bills, staying safe in their neighborhoods -- far removed from the political groups advocating for change. We agreed we must pursue strategies to reach the working poor, people of color, people of faith, and the shrinking middle class.

We will meet every two weeks to coordinate, and I will keep you posted on upcoming events and actions. 'SiCKO' has galvanized communities troughout the land. It is truly the evolution of a movement. Keep pushing, and together we will create change.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007 7:00 PM

The Growing Storm: 'SiCKO' Draws Activists Together from Seattle to D.C.

Part 1 of 3
SiCKO Testifies Before Congress

By Donna Smith, American SiCKO

WASHINGTON, D.C. – There is a growing storm throughout America. 'SiCKO' has launched the health care reform movement into the national arena with lightning-rod intensity. Groups that have labored alone and new groups forming are joining forces to settle in for the civil rights battle of this generation. We will stand together for passage of universal health care reform. And we will not wait another generation.

It had already been an extraordinary 48 hours. I testified in front of Congress on Tuesday, July 17, and told them how angry I am that they have not acted on health care reform. I sat on a witness panel with incredibly intelligent and committed people from Harvard Law School (Elizabeth Warren) and Harvard Medical School (David Himmelstein, also the founder of Physicians for a National Health Program) and the Access Project in Boston (Mark Rukavina).

Me, Donna Smith, average American, testified with these people. I was and am in awe. In the packed gallery of the hearing room were nurses and national health care reform leaders. Leaders from anti-war advocacy groups were also there. Groups represented at the hearing included: the California Nurses Association, Code Pink, HealthCare-Now and the Progressive Democrats of America, among others.

In the hours before and after the hearing, I met with Senators Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and lobbied not with money but with my heart and soul.

Later on during my trip, I visited with Sen. Tom Daschle, who no longer serves in the Senate, but sure should still be there. Though there is nothing to be gained by him in meeting with me, and my station in life certainly does not compare with his, he never fails to make me feel welcome to speak my mind and heart. He was the first person in Congress ever to hear me out on health care crisis – and he applauds my ever-expanding activism.

But my activism is not the only political passion expanding for health care reform in the weeks following the release of 'SiCKO.' Americans are gathering in many locations throughout the nation to plan post-'SiCKO' action.

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