May Day Speech by Mari Cordes, RN from Lincoln, VT

[Here is text of May 1st Healthcare Is A Human Right Rally speech by Mari Cordes, RN is a leader of the Addison County Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign. She is part of United Professions of Vermont/AFT who are partners of the campaign.]
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My name is Mari Cordes. I live in Lincoln, and am a member of AFT local 5221. I am so proud to stand here with you today, representing healthcare professionals. We healthcare workers know what Marcia Timmel meant when she said: “I’m so small and the darkness is so great.” Healthcare workers meet this challenge time and time again when we meet our patients in that darkness that seems so insurmountable. And our patients show us time and time again that the darkness is not insurmountable. Never has this been more apparent to us than when I and my colleagues had the great honor to provide medical care to severely traumatized Haitians after the earthquake. Our strength and our skill was elevated by the incredible gratitude and solidarity demonstrated by our new Haitian friends. Everyday we overcame darkness together.

Also apparent to each of us relief workers was the power of that solidarity. We could not have done what we did – in extremely difficult conditions – without teamwork and team mind. We could not have succeeded without the solidarity and strength of my union – the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals led by Jen Henry, and the American Federation of Teachers - who made sure that we got to the scene in time, had the supplies we needed to function completely independently, and were safe. Beginning just a week after the earthquake, we’ve sent weekly teams of medical relief workers – our 15th team departs this Wednesday. More than 100 us of have deployed. We have since made a name for ourselves in the relief world because of this commitment to team work, as evidenced by a comment made to me by the directors of one of the field hospitals where we worked: “Of all the teams (worldwide) – Vermont was by far the best.” We succeeded because we worked together, just as you and I work together every day to ensure that each and every one of us never has to worry about whether they can afford to get medical help!

As an evolved society, we must support equal access to healthcare for all citizens. When the door is open for all to receive health and wellness care, everyone in society benefits. Cost is reduced because serious illness is prevented. More citizens are able to participate productively in their communities. We should not wait until disaster strikes to care for one another! We urge our legislators and Governor to do the right thing: to support the principle that health care is a human right – it is a public good and not a commodity - and work with us to lead the nation in creating significant reform for not-for-profit, quality, universal healthcare for all.

[Mari Cordes, RN is a leader of the Addison County Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign. She is part of United Professions of Vermont/AFT who are partners of the campaign.]