It was a packed Crystal Cove auditorium on Oct. 24 as hundreds of students, UCI faculty and members from the Irvine community came to hear Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy address ‘Health Policy and Economic Security.’ In addition to a packed Crystal Cove, over 550 people crowded into Emerald Bay to listen to a live telecast broadcast of Kennedy’s lecture, brought to UCI from the Center for the Study of Democracy.
The brother to the late President John F. Kennedy, Senator Kennedy opened his talk by proclaiming UCI to be ‘one of the nation’s outstanding research centers.’ He also honored Jack Peltason, former UCI chancellor and UC president, for his dedication to higher education.
The topic of Arnold Schwarzenegger was near the top of his list as Kennedy jokingly remarked that his Schwarzenegger opinions were going to stay out of the lecture.
‘I also hope this evening, that I’m not going to be asked about Arnold,’ Kennedy said.
No visible animosity, however, exists between the two since Schwarzenegger is married to Maria Schriver, a member of the Kennedy family.
Kennedy began the lecture by speaking of the power that the United States has as one of the world’s leading nations
‘The end of the Cold War gave us unbridled power in the world, but that very power is also the cause of our difficulties because we have not yet learned to use it wisely and well,’ Kennedy said.
Kennedy believed that George W. Bush’s inability to draw support from the United Nations made the ordeal in Iraq much more difficult.
‘We won the war, as we knew we would. The way we won by waging it alone, without the support of the world community, has made it far more difficult to win the peace,’ Kennedy said.
He questioned the true motivations behind the timing of the war, alluding to the high number of American casualties in Iraq and calling the situation ‘far from accomplished.’
‘We should never have … gone to war in Iraq when we did and the way we did, and for the full reasons we were given,’ Kennedy said. ‘As a result of our diplomatic failure, other nations refused to join us and our troops are being asked to serve longer enduring duty under grueling conditions.’
Kennedy urged ‘the administration to admit that it was wrong and turn in a new direction.
‘No one doubts that the United States should remain in charge of the military operations,’ Kennedy said. ‘But internationalizing the reconstruction is not a luxury, it is an imperative.’
He also cited the declining state of our economy within the past few years.
‘When our troops in Iraq return, we want them to come home to jobs and opportunities, better schools for their children and decent health care for their families,’ Kennedy said. ‘Today, our troops are coming home to a stagnant economy.’
Kennedy mentioned the change in family dynamics within the last three years. Many families have to deal with declining job security, diminishing retirement savings and ‘skyrocketing health care costs.’
According to Kennedy, the focused efforts in Iraq are hurting the quality of life for Americans.
‘The administration points to the reconstruction project being undertaken in Iraq,’ Kennedy said. ‘Here at home, we shortchange priorities in education [and] health care in the name of shared sacrifice.’
Kennedy took a few questions from the audience and claimed that U. S. administration has misdirected public understanding of the war.
‘I don’t dismiss their understanding about what the political implications are. I just think there are a whole lot of circumstances out there that are enormously troublesome,’ Kennedy said.
Many UCI faculty members were present to listen to Kennedy, including Professor Carol Uhlaner from the political science department. Uhlaner believes Kennedy to be ‘one of the great masters of the arts of politics’ and added that ‘he was absolutely charming.
‘Senator Kennedy gave a clear statement about what he and many Democrats see wrong with the current administration, but did so in the spirit of bipartisanship,’ Uhlaner said. ‘One of the hallmarks of his long career in the Senate is his ability to work with people of the other political party.’
Though Kennedy addressed the various problems in different areas of health care, Uhlaner felt that he did not give a definitive solution to the problem.
‘I would have liked see him say more about how we thought we could deal with the problem of covering the uninsured [and] guaranteeing health care coverage for all,’ Uhlaner said. ‘I would have liked to hear more from the senator about what he thinks is the mechanism for fixing the health care system.’
Ryan Mykita, third-year economics major and publisher for the Irvine Review, was displeased with Kennedy’s solutions for society.
‘If I were interested in listening to some more complaining, I would read a book by Al Franken,’ Mykita said. ‘I wish [Kennedy] would explain to the crowd how he can consider himself a champion of educational reform when he refuses to make concerted efforts to implement a voucher program in any form.’
Chancellor Ralph Cicerone acknowledged Kennedy’s passion in both health care and foreign policy.
‘He is very true to his values. He sounds like the same Democrat he was for a long time, but the problem is that the issues haven’t gone away like health care,’ Cicerone said. ‘We were hearing about the two things he cares the most about
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