The President’s Economic Forum at Baylor University in Texas on Tuesday was phenomenal, and it was an extraordinary privilege to have been invited to participate.
The White House and cabinet department staffs assembled men and women representing a cross-section of racial and ethnic groups, each with a story to tell and ideas for new policies.
Cabinet secretaries led eight simultaneous breakout sessions on issues ranging from corporate responsibility to health care security. President Bush and Vice President Cheney attended four each, with the president joining our health care session for almost half an hour.
Mark McClellan, Bobby Jindal, John Hoff, Libby Wright and others on the administration’s health team worked extraordinarily hard and assembled what I believe was the best group of workshop participants.
For example, “Grandma” Green and Lucinda Harmon were forceful proponents of policies that offer “a helping hand, not a heavy hand,” as Secretary Thompson observed.
Lucinda is paralyzed and praised the administration’s Independence Initiative, which allows disabled people to tell government, and not government to tell them, what assistance they need to lead fuller, more independent lives.
Flora Green, grandmother to 24 and great grandmother to 17 children, warned, “Every bill that gets passed today has an impact on these many beautiful little children to come into my family.” She advocated a tax credit for prescription drugs instead of a major new government run benefit program.
Project Hope’s Gail Wilensky, Mark Pauly of The Wharton School, Mary Grealy of the Healthcare Leadership Council, Vip Patel of eHealthInsurance, and former AMA president Nancy Dickey were among our colleagues participating in the breakout group.
Secretary Thompson was a skillful breakout session leader, and the only one to make sure that he called on each one of our 31 participants to speak.
The president’s speech in the general session after the workshops was the best I have heard him deliver. He spoke from cards, with a lot of his own scribbled notes, and was passionate about articulating the administration’s comprehensive domestic policy agenda. The media couldn’t help but observe his ownership of the details of these policy ideas.
And finally, the president attended the concluding luncheon for the 240 participants, spending more than two hours going from table to table to shake every hand and continue the morning’s conversations.
Kudos to all who made this happen.
And speaking of kudos, Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas and his staff deserve many for their extraordinarily dedicated work in getting tax credits included in the trade bill. Leaders all, on this linchpin issue. It wouldn’t have happened without them.
And finally, Health Policy Matters is taking a vacation and will return after Labor Day. We hope you take some time to enjoy the rest of this very short summer.