WASHINGTON-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has a fund-raiser in Portland, Oregon on Saturday night...before that, he stumped in Eugene....where he said he was "rooting" for the recovery of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), and revealed he spoke to his wife this morning, Victoria Reggie Kennedy. He was also asked by a man during a visit to a hospital how he could know he could trust Obama. One way, suggested Obama, was to read his memoir.
Click for pool report by Matthew Mosk, Washington Post
TIME: 9:30am PT
EVENT: Barack Obama Visit to Sacred Heart Medical Center (Eugene, Oregon)
From: Matthew A Mosk [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Saturday, May 17, 2008 1:06 PM
May 17, 2008
Sen. Obama stopped at Sacred Heart Medical Center on Hilyard St. in Eugene, a 432-bed full service hospital affiliated with the Catholic Church.
First, the news.
Obama paused before meeting with nurses and doctors, to speak to gathered reporters regarding Sen. Edward Kennedy.
“I know a lot of you are interested in the situation with Senator Kennedy. I have been in contact with the family. Obviously they are in our thoughts and prayers. They I am sure will be releasing some sort of a statement when they have a better assessment of what the situation is. But you know as I have said many times before Senator Kennedy is a giant in American political history. He has done more for the healthcare of others than just about anybody in history. So we are going to be rooting for him. And I insist on being optimistic about how it is going to turn out .”
Campaign said Obama spoke briefly this morning with Sen. Kennedy’s wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy.
Obama met for about 15 minutes in front of the nurse’s station in the hallway of a 3rd floor medical-surgical unit. The gathered nurses, doctors and medical technicians stood in a loose circle around the senator, who spoke from his feet, in the middle of the group. They wore scrubs, some were in white coats, several had stethoscopes draped over their necks.
“We’re going to be talking about healthcare today and I figured that before we had some big town hall meeting on healthcare I should talk to the experts,” he said. “And nobody knows health care better than nurses.”
Obama told the group that when his two daughters were born, and when his mother had cancer, “it was not the doctors I spent most of my time with, it was nurses.” He discussed his familiarity with the national nursing shortage, and asked those gathered to share their concerns and advice about the healthcare system.
“How do we inspire younger people, men and women, to go into a profession that’s very inspiriing?” asked Kitty Schiffer, who is vice president for patient care servces.
The senator discussed the need for more slots in nursing schools and the need to make nursing school more affordable.
After a handful of other comments about the need for more mental health beds and more affordable medication, Sen. Obama was asked about insurance and he shared this story about his nine-year-old daughter Malia’s asthma. Forgive me if you’ve heard it before:
“She was only three when she came into the kitchen and said, ‘Daddy, I’m having trouble breathing,’ which is the worst thing you want to hear from your kids.” Obama said he and Michelle drove Malia to the hospital, which was five minutes away. “While we were there overnight, she was in this room, where there were four or five kids in there, and the doctors told us these kids come in once every week , once every two weeks, for something that should be entirely treatable, but they just didn’t have the coverage to get it. That’s costly for the hospital, and costly for society.”
The other noteworthy encounter occurred as Obama was wrapping up the visit, after posing for photographs with the gathered nurses, including Carol Ann Anderson, 66, a registered Republican, self-described conservative, and 31-year nursing veteran, who said she did not like any of the current candidates, including Sen. McCain, and that she is considering voting for Obama in the fall “given what the choices are.”
As Obama started for the elevators, Ron Spooner, 42, an x-ray technician, and a Republican, called out to the senator. Spooner, dressed in scubs, told Obama he is “torn between you and Sen. McCain.”
“How do I know I can trust you?” Spooner asked bluntly.
Obama first responded by saying he understood it was hard to take the measure of a candidate just by watching them on television. He suggested Spooner read his book to learn more about his life story.
“Look at what I’ve done for 20 years, starting as a community organizer. I think that what you’ll see is, the commitments I’ve made now are ones that I’ve been working on for 20 years.”
Spooner said “the two things that stand out to me” are that he didn’t like reading about Obama’s pastor, but he did appreciate the position Obama took on the gas tax.
“With respect to my former pastor, I think, as I’ve said before, the church is a wonderful church. I’ve said repeatedly, the things he said I found offensive. There’s nobody who knows me who ascribes those views to me.
“The nice thing is we’re going to have 4 more months, 5 more months of active campaigning where I think you can watch and see, am I consistent, do I stay honest,” Obama said.
Spooner said he’d like to hear Obama do more “things like the gas tax.”
“Let me take your advice and we’ll try to make sure I stay honest in what is sometimes a dishonest profession,” Obama said before turning for the elevators and walking away.