Jan's blog

What Have We Bought for $1 Trillion Dollars

As of 10:06 on Sunday, May 30th, we will have spent $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A trillion dollars is a baffling amount of money. If you write it out, use twelve zeros. Even after serving in Congress for over a decade, I, like most Americans, still have a hard time wrapping my head around sums like this.

This month, we mark the seventh anniversary of President Bush's declaration of "mission accomplished" in Iraq, yet five American soldiers have been killed there in May alone. Iraqis went to the polls nearly three months ago, but the political system remains so fractured that no party has been able to piece together a coalition. There are some indications that sectarian violence is again on the rise.

Remarks at the 2010 Power Lunch

A major highlight of my life is looking out at the beautiful crowd that has gathered for each of the last nine years of now nearly 2000 women and as always, a healthy number of very secure men.  Thank you all for coming!  I hope you feel even just a fraction of how good I feel surrounded by the warmth and solidarity that fills this room.  Of course this is a place to see and be seen, and you do look marvelous.  But I hope that an even bigger draw for this lunch is the knowledge that this is a welcoming and safe place; a place where you feel supported and encouraged and inspired by amazing women like Helen Thomas; perhaps here you can connect with someone that can help you, or maybe you will leave feeling strong enough to solve a problem, take on a new challenge, or discover a project that you can get involved in. 

This is where the old girls network gathers, right along side younger women who are raising your families and/or trying to balance a job or career, or maybe still figuring and scheming and dreaming about the right path to take; and this is where I delight in seeing the students that are here including those from the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School, the “Women in History Class” at Oak Park and River Forest High School, and Zafra Lehrman’s science students.  And of course, the children who are still getting ready to launch like my grandchildren Isabel, Eve, Lucy and William. My daughter and friend Mary is here, and I do love seeing the men that are here too including my husband Bob, the love of my life, and my wonderful son Ian.  To all of you who are mothers, have mothers, know mothers, I wish you a very happy Mothers’ Day.

Let's Make the Welfare of the American People the Goal of the Fiscal Commission

I presented the following remarks at the first meeting of President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform:

We members of the Fiscal Commission are charged with a critical mission: "Identifying policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run."

We gather, not as accountants, actuaries, bean counters looking through green eye shades at columns of numbers, but as policy-makers who care deeply about the lives of the American people of today and tomorrow who are impacted by the economic policies of our country. As the President said last week, "...some on Wall Street forgot that behind every dollar traded or leveraged there's a family looking to buy a house, or pay for an education, open a business, save for retirement. What happens on Wall Street has real consequences across the country, across our economy."

The exact same can be said about the task in which we are engaged. Balancing the budget and reducing the debt are not ends in and of themselves. The welfare of the American people must be the goal of our fiscal policy. Everything we do here must be measured in terms of the impact on the well-being of our people, the opportunities we provide to our children and the values of our democratic society.

Stand With Me!

“We did it!” That’s what my friend and part-time bagger at my Jewel food store said as he gave me a bear hug after the vote on health care. He didn’t say “You did it.” or “Obama did it.” He said “We did it!”, and he was right. Everyday people in communities across my district and across America, many of them knowing personally the failures of our current health care system, stood up and said yes to health care reform.

Some of you may remember my raucous town hall meeting in Skokie last August. Thousands of people, some determined to shut down the meeting, came out to express their opinions about health care. After that I received thousands of phone calls and emails -- about 80% in support of health care reform -- some for a single payer system, some for a public option, and some just pleading for relief from pre-existing condition exclusions or unbearably high premiums. Throughout the year long debate in Congress, the people of the 9th Congressional District let me know where they stood and asked me to stand with them. Together, we did it!

Still, there are those who want to break the momentum that is building behind a progressive agenda – even here in the 9th District – and they are willing to spread lies, and fear, and misinformation to prevent us and our candidates and elected officials (including me) from succeeding.

Let's make it perfectly clear to everyone that the Tea Party agenda and the special interest money agenda are rejected by the 9th Congressional District and are a world apart from the values that you and I share.

To demonstrate our strength, I am creating a “Stand With Jan” committee and inviting you and all progressive-minded supporters to sign up.

History Was Made Today

Tonight, the House passed comprehensive health care reform.  This century long fight to provdie quality, affordable health care to all Americans took a big step forward with this historic vote.  I delivered these remarks on the floor of the House before I cast this vote:

Madam Chairwoman, I want to express my profound thanks to the people of Illinois' 9th Congressional District, the place where I was born and lived nearly all my life, for the privilege of being here today to cast my vote for this historic health care measure. My life’s work has been to answer what is at bottom a moral question – Will the United States of America continue to allow its people to lose their lives, their homes and their fundamental sense of security, or we will finally decide that a proud and wealthy country like ours has an ethical obligation to provide access to health care for everybody? Is it even credible to think that a country as rich in so many ways as ours can’t afford to do this?

I am so proud that today, the House, under the leadership of perhaps THE most effective Speaker in US history, Nancy Pelosi, will say to all those parents agonizing that their sick child is excluded from insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition, sleep well. When our courageous and visionary President signs this law, that will end. This bill tells all Americans suffering from a chronic condition whose insurance companies set lifetime or annual caps on coverage, those days are over this year. Seniors will learn the happy truth that they will get more help with prescription drug costs and that the life of Medicare itself has been extended. And millions and millions of Americans will find out that this bill will mean that they will be able to afford the health care they need.

I am humbled and grateful to be here today to vote yes.

Become a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the Stop Outsourcing Security Act

It seems that every week, we're hearing about another outrageous example of Private Military Contractors, especially Blackwater, (or Xe, as they now call themselves). Last week we were shocked to hear about allegations of how Blackwater billed the government for prostitution. Two weeks ago The Nation highlighted the heartbreaking story of Blackwater's youngest victim, a 9 year old who was shot by Blackwater guards. He was one of 17 victims that day in Nisour square.

As of mid-2009, the United States employed over 22,000 hired guns in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that number keeps going up. Our reliance on private, for-profit companies for the business of waging war is extremely dangerous. It's time we move to eliminate the use of these unaccountable and controversial mercenaries, and I ask you to join me as a citizen co-sponsor of legislation that I have just re-introduced, the Stop Outsourcing Our Security Act.??

Ending My "Abusive Relationship"

I am happy to report that I have taken the first very important steps in ending the abusive relationship I am in. That's right. I am breaking up - with my "too big to fail" bank.

Bank of America, bye-bye. It started out innocently enough. When I first started banking as a young woman, I went to the Norshore National Bank, a friendly community bank in my neighborhood. And then it was bought by a bigger bank, and then by a bigger bank, and then by LaSalle Bank, a large but esteemed institution in the Chicago area, and finally by Bank of America. The transitions were pretty smooth, and frankly, I admit I took the easy way out and stayed put.

Hello, Devon Bank! Yesterday I went to the bank that my parents patronized for many happy years. It's in the neighborhood I grew up in, near my house, in my district. The friendly bankers were happy to see me and helped me open a new checking account. I can still bank on line, get a debit card, and use without charge a network of ATMs that are conveniently located. They gave me a map that I'll keep in my car. Not only that, they will pay me 4.15% interest on my balance up to $20,000 and they gave me a very nice pen set and a clock!

Remembering the Legacy of Dr. King

As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I urge you to remember Dr. King's legacy of non-violence and compassion as he fought for progressive change. Many of you already take part in civic, religious, and volunteer activities as part the MLK Jr. Day of Service, which urges citizens to view the Federal holiday not as "a day off, but a day on."

This MLK Jr. Day, please keep in mind the people of Haiti, as the struggle to recover from last week's earthquake. Over the last several years I have travelled to Haiti many times, and the images of the destruction have broken my heart.

Haiti Needs Our Help

Haiti needs our help. As I'm sure you've heard, a major earthquake has devastated Port-Au-Prince, Haiti's capitol. I've traveled to Haiti several times, most recently in the last year. While there had been glimmers of hope in this country with a difficult history, news of this horrific tragedy breaks my heart.

In my time in Haiti, I was privileged to develop a strong friendship with Dr. Paul Farmer, and have become a passionate supporter of his remarkable organization Partners in Health, which many of you might already be familiar with. Chicago supporters of Partners in Health helped construct a hospital and Women's clinic in Haiti. By supporting Partners in Health, your donation will go directly towards helping those most affected by the earthquake. Please read this message that Partners In Health sent out yesterday evening, and consider giving your support.
A major earthquake centered just 10 miles from Port-au-Prince has devastated sections of the city and knocked out telephone communications throughout the country. Reached via email, Partners In Health staff at our facilities in the Central Plateau report that they experienced a strong shock but no major damage or injuries. We are still attempting to establish contact with other PIH facilities and to locate several staff members who were traveling in and around Port-au-Prince.

In an urgent email from Port-au-Prince, Louise Ivers, our clinical director in Haiti, appealed for assistance from her colleagues in the Central Plateau: "Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS... Temporary field hospital by us at UNDP needs supplies, pain meds, bandages. Please help us."

Donate now to support our earthquake relief efforts.

The earthquake has destroyed much of the already fragile and overburdened infrastructure in the most densely populated part of the country. A massive and immediate international response is needed to provide food, water, shelter, and medical supplies for tens of thousands of people.

With our hospitals and our highly trained medical staff in place in Haiti, Partners In Health is already mobilizing resources and preparing plans to bring medical assistance and supplies to areas that have been hardest hit.

Both our teams in Boston and Haiti are already mobilizing to deliver resources as quickly as possible to the places where they are needed most.

Donate now to support our earthquake relief efforts.

Thank you for your solidarity during this crisis,

Ophelia Dahl
Executive Director - Partners in Health


New Year's Blog

My new year began in earnest on Monday, January 4. Full of the spirit of a fresh start, I began with 25 minutes of aerobics on the elliptical machine and lifted some weights. Feeling self-righteous, I luxuriated in one of the best holiday gifts ever from my husband Bob – a one and a half hour massage. I went straight from there to get a manicure, went to Jenny Craig and started on the annual diet, got my hair colored and cut, and now, I am fully ready to launch into 2010! Coiffed and polished, I am heading off to Washington to see about a health care bill.
The challenge is to craft a bill that makes health care affordable and available to all Americans regardless of income or health status or gender or geography, does not compromise women’s access to abortion services, is paid for in a way that does not burden middle class people, seriously controls the unbridled power and greed of the insurance industry – and can get 60 votes in the Senate.  “Ah, there’s the rub.”