Marcelas Owens: A Reason to (Affordable) Care

07/06/2012 08:51 am ET | Updated Sep 05, 2012

Leading up to the Supreme Court's verdict on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, news channels showed the video reel of President Obama signing the bill into law over and over again. Standing next to the president in every clip of him signing the bill is an 11-year-old named Marcelas Owens. Owens' mother was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertention in 2006. Her disease forced her to miss so much work that she ended up losing her job, and thereby lost her health care. Without healthcare, Mrs. Owens could no longer afford to pay for her life-supporting medication, and in 2007, she passed away. After observing the injustice his mother faced, Marcelas made it his mission to prevent other families from going "through the pain that [his] family had gone through." So he gave speeches, attended rallies and spoke to his community about the necessity of health care reform. And ultimately, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, providing Marcelas with some sense of redemption for his mother's death, and a degree of comfort that other kids would not have to suffer like he suffered.

So, as it became increasingly likely that the Supreme Court would overturn Obamacare, I couldn't help but think of Marcelas. Sure, Marcelas would always have the experience of riding in the motorcade with the president in his memory bank and would still have been able to tell his children about meeting the president, but if the health care bill were overturned, none of that would have mattered. Owens would have had to accept that, due to Washington's inability to break free from partisan bickering and the Supreme Court's own political beliefs, other children would likely have to face hardships similar to those Owens encountered.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Marcelas' fight for healthcare reform was its apolitical nature. Seeing someone, especially a child, work tirelessly to fight for a piece of legislation without any political motive was incredibly refreshing. Unlike almost all politicians in the public eye, Marcelas did not care about optics. He didn't stand next to the president because being there looked good for Democrats. He didn't travel the country giving speeches because he thought health care might help get Obama re-elected. And he definitely did not tell others about his mother's fight with pulmonary hypertension for political gain. Marcelas was not a prop. Marcelas fought for something he believed in because he believed in it. And that is largely why it was so gratifying when the Supreme Court surprised Democrats and Republicans alike in ultimately ruling the Affordable Care Act constitutional under the government's right to tax. Like Marcelas, Chief Justice John Roberts jumped across ostensible party lines and voted to support the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

All politicians and members of the media could benefit from following Marcelas' lead, but Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in particular, could especially learn from Marcelas' story. Romney's main obstacle this election season has been his inability to find a message and stick to it. Romney's views on issues from abortion to health care have changed over the course of his time as a politician, and Americans have been forced to wonder what Romney really believes in. As a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed, almost 60 percent of Romney supporters are voting for him just because they don't like President Obama, not because they particularly like Romney or Romney's political beliefs. It is instrumental for Romney to identify what he really wants for America to have any chance at winning the November election. If Governor Romney's true beliefs are out there, people will be able to judge Romney for what he actually believes in -- like how I support Marcelas Owens for representing everything any of us could ever believe in.