But this year, a handful of us got to have a serious chat with one of Barack Obama's closest and most trusted advisors, Valerie Jarrett.
Meetings like this could easily end up being nothing more than a meet and greet where everyone gets a quick handshake and a canned speech about whatever the topic of the day is.
That is so not what happened with Jarrett.
I was amazed at how much time we had with Jarrett. She didn't rush us, she didn't glance at her watch and she ignored both of her cell phones!
She greeted each one of us personally and carefully considered every question and comment posed to her. Most of our queries focused on health care, spanning the range from costs of future health insurance plans to telling personal health care nightmares. My question to Jarrett was this -- Harry Truman delivered a speech about health care very similar to Obama's over 60 years ago. Virtually nothing has changed to help struggling families get the health insurance coverage they need. So 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?
Her response? She believes the confluence of the current health insurance crisis and our economic crisis will push it over the edge so that something better gets passed. So many families, Jarrett remarked, are struggling to make ends meet not only for the day-to-day needs, but also for medical basics, that she thinks the collective cry for help will make it happen. We've rarely had as many major domestic problems as we do now, she observed, and that, she believes, will make our collective demand for change will make it a reality now.
I hope she's right. Given what I'm reading in the newspapers this week, it doesn't sound promising and it's looking like a tepid, watered-down version that changes nothing when it comes to providing health care to those who need it most is what will get the attention of lawmakers who can't seem to find a backbone to truly change our broken-down system.
I know that President Obama and advisors like Jarrett are doing what they can to help the millions who need medical care, but for some reason lawmakers are resistant. I wonder if their positions would change if they had family members who couldn't get the medical care they needed. Maybe that should be a new requirement to be elected to Congress -- no new lawmakers unless you have a family member who can directly relate to the real-life problems the rest of us face. That would get things moving.
If anyone can keep President Obama on track on this issue, it's Jarrett. After reading the profile of her in the New York Times Magazine, I have even more confidence in her abilities to make things happen and to get women's voices and concerns in front of the president.
As a matter of fact, after I finished the article, I believe Jarrett ought to have the White House in mind for herself someday.
Joanne Bamberger is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom, as well as a Contributing Editor for News & Politics at BlogHer. Her book, Mothers of Intention, about political motherhood, will be published by Bright Sky Press in 2010 and her work will be included in the forthcoming book, Kirtsy Takes a Bow: A Celebration of Women's Online Favorites.
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