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An Activist Among Us

I interviewed Roxanne Pauline while she was waiting for a town hall meeting to end, so that she could distribute fliers and stickers and buttons about health care reform. Roxanne devotes much of her time to organizing events that educate people about politics. Activism, she says, is in her blood. It's what she does, and she does it very well.

Like many activists, Roxanne comes from a theater background. Because of that, she has no qualms about talking with people, creating performance art pieces to get her message across, or dealing with the press. She is also very good at getting people's attention, and that’s what educating the public about the issues requires.

Lately, Roxanne's message has been about health care reform. She's for it. And she wants the public option, too. She is a volunteer with MoveOn, Healthcare for America Now (HCAN), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and her state's activist health care group. But even within those organizations, she stands out as a pro.

Roxanne’s own family benefited greatly from past health care programs, such as Medicare, which supported her chronically disabled brother until his death this year at age forty-four. She knows that now is the time to make changes to our broken health care system and that, if we fail to pass legislation this year, we won’t have another chance for a long, long time.

So, Roxanne plans and executes event after event. Rallies, vigils, public presentations in front of elected officials' offices -- everything she does has the goal of providing people with more information about reform and giving them an opportunity to talk about their questions and concerns.

She says she has not had any bad experiences with opponents of reform. While acknowledging that some people just like to scream and often don't even understand what they are screaming about, she adds that, when a supporter and an opponent start to really talk, they find common ground. Neither one wants anything bad to happen; they just have different opinions about what the "bad thing" would be. And most of those opinions are taken from sound bites generated by the media.

That is why Roxanne is doing something "pre-media" to advance the health care reform debate. She is staging readings of HR 3200, similar to the kind of reading of a bill that would have been done by a town crier in the village square back in the days when most citizens were unable to read. Yes, HR 3200 is over one thousand pages long, but Roxanne has found many volunteers, mostly actors, who are willing to take on sections of the reading.

At a recent reading in Scranton, PA, the Scranton Times Leader reported that, "While the reading is going on, the organizers are encouraging attendees to discuss health care under a tent."

Roxanne is the one who arranged for, and probably helped put up, that tent. Discussion and debate are important to her. She believes health care reform is everybody's issue. And she says that everybody can contribute to the cause by following their talents. Make a poster, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, make a video, or talk to your neighbors.

Not everybody can do what Roxanne does, but isn't it wonderful that she, and many others like her across the country, are doing it? I hope you feel inspired right now.

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