"Something is fundamentally wrong when our health system puts more stress on working families, not less. We need to find a solution in this Congress so that every American has guaranteed access to quality care."
"Quality care shouldn't depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to."
— Sen. Edward Kennedy
More than a dozen people gathered at the corner of Main Street and Bailey Boulevard to honor the legacy of Sen. Edward Kennedy and to reinforce many Americans' commitment to continue his work for affordable health care insurance for all during Greater Haverhill for Obama's "We can't afford to wait" vigil on Wednesday, Sept. 2.
Kennedy is known for his part in the creation of Medicare, the family and medical leave bill, women's health legislation, fetal tissue research, and Meals on Wheels for senior citizens.
More than 30 years ago, Kennedy said "we must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level" and asked everyone to resolve that "the state of a family's health shall never depend on the size of a family's wealth."
"Yet after 30 years, many Americans are still suffering today from a broken health care system," said Demet Haksever, a member of Greater Haverhill for Obama and coordinator of the vigil.
Members of the local grassroots organization lined the corner cheering for universal health care and holding signs asking for affordable health care for all as cars blared their horns as they passed.
Jane Thiefels of Haverhill supports health care reform.
"People forget the vast amount of money that has been spent on the war in Iraq and yet when we want health care for our own people, people are up in arms. People need to think of the poor and disenfranchised who have no insurance," Thiefels said.
Beckie Jani of Lawrence, who attended the vigil with her daughter, Prema, 23, believes the president has a good plan despite all the negative publicity surrounding the issue.
"If people would just look at it and give it a chance they would see it's a good thing. It's sort of like the mail. You have the government people, who are the post office, and then you have the private sector, who are Fed Ex, UPS and others. Why can't those who want to stay with their insurance or in the private companies stay and let others have the choice for what they want. If it works for the mail there's no reason it can't work for health care," Jani said.
Carol Crowell of Haverhill said she wants to see health care for everyone.
"The United States is the only industrialized country that does not provide universal health care. We are just as smart as those doing it and can figure out a way to make it work," Crowell said.
Dan Speers of Haverhill said he is upset at how the health care debate has been framed.
"There is no public takeover of health care. People need to understand that," Speers said.
After the sun set, the crowd gathered around the Hannah Duston monument in GAR Park. Each participant held lit candle and took a turn reading inspirational passages from Ted Kennedy's writings.
"Let's remember tonight thousands of Americans who are not getting adequate medical care because they don't have insurance, those who can't get coverage because of their pre-existing conditions and others who are losing health insurance every day or going bankrupt because they can't afford the medical costs," Haksever said.
The event was held in conjunction with vigils nationwide, and just days before members of Congress return to Washington. The goal was to make sure that representatives know that an overwhelming majority of voters are counting on them to act quickly to pass a health care reform bill, said M. Eva Rajczyk, a member of Greater Haverhill for Obama.
"We feel that one of the best ways to honor Senator Kennedy's life is to keep working for meaningful health care reform, which was the passion of his life," Rajczyk said.