Patrick Kennedy Slams ‘Bible Belt’ Lawmakers, Stumps For Obamacare in College Speech

Oct 14, 2013 by

by Jose R Gonzalez –

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy disparaged “Bible Belt” lawmakers and encouraged students to fight hard for Obamacare’s success in a recent speech before a room full of college students, many of whom were required to attend.

The Oct. 8 event, hosted by Texas State University, drew an audience of more than 900 people. It’s part of the academic program Common Experience, and many freshmen were required to watch the speech and write a summary on it.

The famously named Kennedy, a longtime Democrat congressman from Rhode Island and leading proponent of improving care and insurance coverage for mental health disorders and substance abuse, told students the stigmatization of mental health disorders “will change when we celebrate everybody is somewhere on a spectrum of needing mental health.”

That comment prompted a round of hearty applause.

He followed that up by telling students “Bible Belt” lawmakers are less sympathetic to mental health disorders, and were part of the reason his 2008 signature law to force insurance companies to increase their coverage for mental health disorders and addiction almost didn’t pass.

He said members of Congress who did not vote for the bill would tell him: “ ‘I come from the buckle of the Bible Belt. … In my part of the country these issues are looked upon as character issues, not chemistry issues. They’re looked upon as issues of morality, not medical issues.’ ”

Kennedy said former Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd, then-chairman of the Committee on Housing, Banking and Urban Affairs, helped pass the bill as a favor to his father, former Sen. Ted Kennedy.

“I called my dad and said, ‘Dad, it’s sitting in the Senate, it’s not passing, you got to call somebody.’ Of course my dad had lots of favors to call in,” he said. “He called, and Chris Dodd said: ‘I’ve got just the answer.’ ”

The mental health bill passed the Senate after it was tacked on to the federal bank bailout, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, in September 2008.

In his speech, Kennedy also compared current American political discourse to sectarian violence among Muslims in the Middle East.

“When we can’t talk to each other because we so demonize (each other), it sounds to me like we’re Sunni-Shia kind of, like, tribal warfare here,” he said. “We’re that close to going down that road if we can’t figure out that culturally and politically we need to talk to each other, and not this burn down the whole thing to save ourselves.”

On the topic of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, Kennedy likened the struggle for voting rights in the 1960s with the newly mandated entitlement program, and made a call to action similar to the one President Lyndon B. Johnson made to civil rights activists.

Johnson had told activists to “make him sign the voting rights bill,” and they did by marching and rallying on the streets, he said.

Obama “can’t expect to just deliver for all of us the public option and this stuff if we’re not out there fighting for it,” adding “he needs people behind him,” he said.

Kennedy also took a jab at conservation efforts in Texas when he joked he was surprised with the natural aesthetics of the Texas State campus.

“What a beautiful campus you guys have,” he said. “Protecting endangered species? That conflicted with my general view of Texas.”

He also described the assassinations of his uncles, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, as having caused his father to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, a type of anxiety disorder that occurs after the sufferer has endured an extreme emotional trauma involving the threat of injury or death.

“I grew up with my father who totally lived with what we would refer to as post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said.

In his speech, Patrick Kennedy did not address how his father actually suffered from PTSD, but did say “my father was one of the greatest senators in U.S. history.”

via Patrick Kennedy Slams ‘Bible Belt’ Lawmakers, Stumps For Obamacare in College Speech.

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