How do we make "Health Care" as sexy as "Beer Summit"? Obama Administration asks BlogHers to help. Will you?

BlogHer Original Post

"You have to help me figure out what the strategy should be because when he's [President Obama's] out there telling us it's a choice and they [the press] aren't listening - what should we do?" asked Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, in a meeting with about 20 bloggers at BlogHer '09 Friday.

As you'll read below, our conversation with Jarrett was emotional and substantive, what you'd expect from a room of policy wonks and writers. Denise Tanton live-blogged, after which Jaelithe Judy of Momocrats offered analysis and listed participants.

The blogger who captured the experience for me was Kerri Morrone Sparling, who described Jarrett's message (Sparling writes Six Until Me, a blog about her Type 1 diabetes):

"[Jarrett] listened intently. And she said she wanted to give a voice to those who might not speak up for themselves. "Often the people who need it the most don't speak up because they don't feel like they have a voice. Give the grass roots a voice, empower them, work together informing people within their communities. You can work to help them get their voice, get info that they don't have."

Photo credit: Six Until Me

This lady is important. Her cell phone rang several times during our lunch (it could have been THE PRESIDENT, for crying out loud) and she had her assistant take the call so she could focus on us. She handed out her card and scheduled phone calls between some bloggers and her staff to help with the specific health issues that these bloggers were dealing with. Sure, for them it was a matter of being in the right time at the right place, but she really listened. I've never sat in a room before with a member of high political influence who paid attention to the people more than the information on her cell phone or in her planner. (Maybe that means I've been in the room with the wrong politicians?)

It was a remarkable experience, and the room was electric with hope.

What was too "dry" for networks brought some bloggers who met with Jarrett to tears

The conversation with Jarrett was frank, even raw. Loralee of Loralee's Looney Tunes sobbed as she shared her incredibly painful medical history of being denied insurance for a high-risk pregnancy, her resulting financial challenges, and her conservative husband's distrust of the president's health care ideas. (Jarrett arranged to speak with Loralee's husband via telephone last Monday.) Kelly of Mocha Momma worried about a communications plan capable of reaching disenfranchised people who need it the most, like the families living in poverty in the school district she helps run. "Will the burden fall on the schools to communicate?" she asked Jarrett afterward.

The conversation continued...a few highlights:
- Jaelithe Judy then illustrated the communications challenge beautifully, asking Jarrett how the administration "planned to clarify the difference between a voluntary public health insurance option -- which is on the table -- and the idea of totally government-run, government-sponsored single payer health care -- which is not?"
- Liz Henry urged Jarrett to listen to ADAPT.
- PunditMom Joanne Bamberger invoked Harry Truman's speech on health care for all 60 years ago, and asked, "what has to happen to tip the balance this time to make sure we do provide health care coverage for every person who needs it?"
- Nurse Kim McAllister of Emergiblog expressed her frustration with partisan contention over his issue.

"I don't know anyone who is really happy with the status-quo," said Jarrett. "We really do want to hear what your readers think. Have them come up with a better idea. Participate in the process. Know we are going to listen. The president doesn't care if it's a red state or a blue state. It doesn't matter if you're a liberal or a conservative Republican. "What are your ideas? Send ME your ideas."

Two guesses what's top on Twitter: "Beer Summit" or "#healthcare"?

Did Jarrett mean it? Yes. Can we help? Oh yes -- one week later, two guesses which of the front page stories from last week is a top trending topic on Twitter: Beer Summit or #healthcare?

It's not even close. Beer Summit's been trending at up to 100 Tweets a minute at peak usage in the past 24 hours, while #healthcare limps along at fewer than one Tweet per minute. Now, I love beer. And I think the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in his own home is an important story. But that isn't what people are talking about when it comes to the Beer Summit; it's more like a national Homer Simpson moment.

So please help change health care in this country. If you comment below, Erin Kotecki Vest, BlogHer Political Director, will email your comments to the white House. That's a promise -- as Erin wrote on her personal blog:

They [the Obama Administration] aren’t paying lip service. TELL THEM WHAT YOU THINK about their health care reform plan and if you DO NOT LIKE IT give them your ideas. I’m sending your feedback directly to White House staff.

Let 'er rip!!


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