“…And when you have to pay for justice, no one can afford it…” – from the audience
“…We’re a family friendly society, we have to have family friendly rules…” – a member of the panel
Our previous coverage of the July 10th round table discussion at Pierson Auditorium on the campus of the University of Missouri – Kansas City:
The question and answer portion of the event:
….Q: My question is about Social Security. Which is another women’s issue, also. We hear that it’s not gonna be there, but unfortunately there’s a large part of Social Security that the government uses, not for us. And, I mean, I feel they need to not do that, keep dipping into that. And that’s why, one of the reasons why we won’t have any for the younger people. [applause]
Michelle Obama: I don’t want to misstate Barack’s position. That’s always one of the tricky parts about being a spouse out here. [laughter] ‘Cause I, I don’t know everything he knows. But I do know that generally Barack is, you know, believes in the importance of Social Security and doing the work that we need to do to save it. For the reasons that you just outlined. There are generations of people who need it. There are many more that are counting on it. I don’t know what the plan is to do that, but we can definitely get you more information on his plan for dealing with Social Security. We’ve got our policy people here, so if somebody will just make sure to follow up specifically with this, with this woman and anybody else who has questions about Barack’s specific proposal on Social Security – we’ll get that to you. [applause] [garbled] first.
Q: Good morning Michelle. I just want to say we really thank you being here. One of my questions, I guess, I wanted to inquire on minority businesses. I’m a minority business myself and it’s really a touchy subject for a lot of governments at this time. And getting minority participation on projects is kind of like, I haven’t heard about it too much, so I wanted to kind of ask what was the position [garbled].
Michelle Obama: You know, again, I’m not sure of Barack’s specific position on minority women owned businesses, minority owned businesses, but I do know that we come from a state where the kind of investment in insuring that these businesses can grow and thrive and have, have access to compete is, is top of mind. But one of the things that Barack has found out is, is becoming just as critical to the survival of woman and minority owned businesses and all small businesses. It still boils down to the question of health care costs. Because what he’s hearing from small businesses all over the country, regardless of the, the nature of the business, is that these businesses are having difficulty surviving because, you know, well, one business owner yesterday in, in Pontiac was saying that they’re still trying to pay for eighty per cent of health care costs for their employers, for their employees. If you imagine what an economic drain that is, because the unpredictability of costs for a small business is the same that it is for individuals as co-pays are going up and so on and so forth. And small businesses want to be able to do this. They know that that’s, you know, an important resource to have for recruitment and retention, But it’s becoming very difficult and what we’re finding is that there are a lot of people who aren’t even trying to start new businesses because of health care costs. It’s not because they’re not innovative, they don’t have the ideas, they can’t develop the capital. It’s because when they look at the costs of insurance it is just too great of a burden. So we’re hearing more and more that even as important as the ability to compete for business, is the ability to thrive as a business. So, you know, that, that’s why this universal health care piece is, it is so critical. That is why it, it is on the top, it isn’t accidental. It’s not that the other issues for Barack aren’t important, it’s just that when you start pulling apart that, you know, some of these big ticket items like education and energy and, and health care that they, they impact so much of what this economy can and can’t do on so many levels that if we don’t fix that, to begin anywhere else is almost, you know, it, it’s not realistic to expect a solution when the big, you know, the big problem is health care.
Okay, so we have time for one more, let’s give this young lady right here, I’m trying to spread the wealth. Unless somebody tells me we can do more questions. Uh! Okay. We can do another one.
Q: Well, I didn’t really have a question I had a comment. Is that okay?
Michelle Obama: That’s, that’s okay. [laughter]
Q: ‘Cause I wanted to share…
Michelle Obama: No, you must leave. [laughter]
Q: [laughter] I wanted to share a story with you because I believe that you’re gonna be the next first lady…
Michelle Obama: Well, that’s very…
Q: …and I hope… [cheers] [applause] …and I believe that you care about people’s difficulties that they have. My name is XXXXX and I’m a working mother with like fifty hours. And, you know, when I get up every day what I think about’s my son. My son’s name is XXXXX. That’s all I think about. That’s what that motivates me. And I’m fighting to be with my son. The Jackson County Family Court is keeping me from doing that. And also my son’s father. Channel 41, the local station, did a story on it. And I just wanted to tell you a, a recession affects people in different ways. But people that are in litigation, especially concerning their families, it’s the worst. Because you’re not just choosing between your car, you know, things you have, maybe going out. I’m choosing between paying bills and having a chance to be with my son. And so is my son’s father. And I also wanted to say that, you know, as, it’s, it’s a little off subject, as related to something that Barack said, about fathers stepping up to be with their children, to support their children. There is a system in this country where even in family courts they’re keeping people from doing that. People want to step up. People want to take care of their children. But they’re keeping them from doing that. And when you have to pay for justice, no one can afford it. I can’t afford it, he can’t afford it. [applause] [garbled]
Michelle Obama: Thank you for that. Thank you for that. [applause] [garbled] You know, and, and Sister Berta [sp] you may want to talk a little bit about this because this has come up as well in every round table is that the challenges that people are facing in foster care, in the court systems as well, you know, you may want to talk a bit about those struggles because, you know, and also I want to make sure that people understand that, you know, as Barack talks about his experiences growing up without a father. That that in no way doesn’t recognize that there’s serious problems in, in the system at all. I think part of what we all have to do in addition to fighting the system and making sure there’s equity and that people have the resources to, to keep their families whole, I think Barack is always of the view that we have to talk about all sides of the coin. You know, that as we’re talking about that fight we also have to recognize that there are people who do have complete ability an access to do what they need to do. And sometimes in the face of all that is bad we don’t always do what’s, what’s the best as individuals. And part of Barack’s message will always be there’s government responsibility and ac
countability, but there is individual [voice: “Yeah.”] responsibility [applause] and accountability. And, and one never cancels out the other, you know. So, as a part of this conversation, as a part of healing, our growth as a nation we have to own what we do right, own what we do wrong, and work to fix the stuff that is in, within, our, our power as individuals and communities [applause] and families. So, so, you want to talk just a little bit about what you’ve seen? [crosstalk]
Panelist: Well, I, I think systems were designed originally to help families. But what happens, I think, is systems stay the same and the families change and so the systems become useless. You know, you get, you get, it’s easier to get into the court system than to get out of it. [laughter] And, one of the issues I think with, with fathers, I’ve been around a while, but I never tell my age, but anyway [laughter]. When I first came here, to get welfare, they went in your home, looked in your cabinets to see if there were men’s stuff anywhere. If there was, you were denied. And now we are blaming the women because they don’t have stable relationships. If one of our moms who was working at a fast food place marries the man that works next to her she loses health insurance, child care, any housing help, and food stamps. And yet we say we’re such a family friendly society and we believe fathers should be at home taking care of their children. But we, we create systems that cause them not to be able to, and then we turn around and blame the women for not doing a better job at this. And I think a lot of this stuff that ends up in court is part of the issue. And we, we have, we’re a family friendly society, we have to have family friendly rules. Which means if a couple gets married we support them, not completely, but help them for a while, and ease them off of it. If a mother comes in and tells me she’s getting married it’s, I don’t say, I say, “Oh good” and I’m thinking that’s not a good economic decision. [audience voices] It should be. It should be the best decision. And so our systems are destroying our families. And I don’t know how to fix it. But somebody needs to fix this because we pay a huge price for these kids. Kids growing with foster care, what seventy per cent end up as homeless kids. And when they’re eighteen they get a hundred dollars, they drop them at a shelter. I mean, come on, we can do better than this. We do better with our pets in this country. And I like pets, but we do. [applause]
Michelle Obama: How much time do we have? Melissa? [laughter] Melissa on your Blackberry. Oh, you know what? In all fairness, you’re, you’re, you’re back here. I [garbled] . I know. I’m trying to spread the wealth. This gentleman. Do we have a mic over here? Coming, it’s coming. That was hard. [laughter]
Q: My name is XXXXX, I actually go to UMKC here and, and I’m one of the student advocates for the [garbled]. But my question is, we have a lot of students who have issue getting health coverage because they can’t afford to do it with their parents, or their parents don’t allow them to stay on their health insurance because they’re going away to school. They also have issues with things like loans and the Federal Pell grant has stayed the same while the costs for education has gone up over and over again. And students like me, I, I’m a, I’m a, student loan person, I’m a program person, and we just can’t afford to constantly be paying back these loans and we’re worried that the Pell grant isn’t going to increase when it doesn’t cover any of our expenses. Is there anything that, that, that you all foresee as, as [garbled] administration that can help ease that burden, because the Federal government literally covers maybe a fifth of what I have to pay every year? [voice: “Yeah, yeah.”]
Michelle Obama: Yes. [applause] Well, on the, on the insurance front, and just somebody check me, if, if I’m wrong, part of what Barack is proposing in his plan is that students can stay on their parents’ insurance longer. You know, that’s one of the, you know, I don’t want to get it wrong. [laughter] But I, I did notice that as I am a parent, I was like “Whoo, that’d be good.” [laughter] But, you know, part of it is that in, in, I believe in, in some policies, you know, kids get cut off at a certain age and it doesn’t sort of coincide with any realistic life structure that people have. Kids are going to college, they’re still dependent much longer than that. I think that’s why, you know, that would help on the student piece with health care if, if students could stay on. But again, that doesn’t, you know, help you if your family doesn’t have insurance at all. But again, if we had universal health care coverage this kind of stuff, you know, it, it would encompass students and families without insurance and so on and so forth. On the, on the loan grant, on the loan issue, you know, one of Barack’s big proposals around education is linked to his proposal on national service. And we are big national service, we’re big national service family. [applause] Because one of, one of the best jobs I had in my life before going into the hospitals was running an Americorps national service program under the Clinton administration. I run, Americorps was an outstanding idea. And it’s still funded under the current administration, just at lower levels. But, you know, through these types of initiatives young people are do, and, and people of all ages for that matter, that would be part of the expansion, that it wouldn’t have to just apply to college age students. But, our seniors and so on and so forth, you imagine the amount of manpower that could be used and put into child care and health care and elderly care and nursing homes if we had young people who in exchange for their college tuition, you know, you do, you get a little college support, you do a little service. [voice: “Yes.”] And, [applause][cheers] and, and because of that the creation of that Americorps culture under Clinton young people are just exciting, this isn’t, you know, this wouldn’t be hard, young people are doing this already. Service has become a part of the culture, particularly among high school and college age, because many schools and churches require community service. So kids are embracing this already. And it wouldn’t have to be abroad. The Peace Corps is wonderful, that would be an option, but there’s so much that needs to be done around conservation and energy and social services support. Having national service volunteers working with foster families and, and in those systems that would supply more support – young people would relish the chance to do that and it, and also exposes them to these wonderful careers in public service, which sometimes you don’t always get exposed to in college. Even wonderful institutions in college, you’re majoring in soc, psych, you can be pre-med, you can be a law student, but if you want understand what it meant to be in the foster care system or to run a non-profit organization, to, you know, do a whole, be a community organizer. You don’t, you don’t learn that in college. [voices: “No.”] you know, college is good [garbled] [laughter], love it. We’re gonna probably see more and more of those service learning initiatives coming out of our colleges, well but we’re, you know, we’re growing and what, what, what I found in the young people who did service that they were more inclined to be more civic minded. [voice: “Yes.”] Whether they became lawyers, or investment bankers, hedge fund managers – if you had a taste of working on the ground with people as a college student that affects your thinking forever.
So, [applause][cheers] okay, I just got the cut sign. [laughter] So I, we have to stop. But, you know, let me begin by thanking my panel. [applause] It isn’t easy to sit up here and share your story, stories, but is so helpful. It’s helpful to this campaign, it will be helpful to Barack’s presidency, because one of the things that, you know, I , that Barack understands is, is incumbent upon him as he ascends the rank, is to continue to keep h
is feet planted to the ground and to, to know these stories not just from, you know, anecdotes. But to hear them in settings like this where people let their guards down and they feel the safety of their communities to be able to talk and express. And there’s nothing like the stories that fill your head as you have to advocate and understand how to structure this stuff, and what’s broken, and who’s getting, you know, and understanding that things are not black and white. There’s a ton of gray in life ,you know, as we think about what we want to do and how we want to invest in, in policies. It’s easy, you know, in the vacuum outside of life to think that the answers are so easy. They’re so hard. And they’re so complicated. So, thank you all for sharing and know that we will be working hard to stay grounded and stay focused and to keep fighting. It won’t be easy. So many systems have already been locked in place that it will take decades to unravel, but if we begin the process then maybe we’ll be at a point in time…[applause] So, thank you everyone. [applause]