(photo above from www.whitehouse.gov)
In another stunning “first” for Trinity Women in Politics, President Obama today announced the nomination of Kathleen Gilligan Sebelius, ’70, to join his Cabinet as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Congratulations, Kathleen! As the two-term Governor of Kansas, she already blazed a trail where few women have served before — in the state executive mansions — and she was the first Trinity Alumna elected as a governor. She now becomes the first Trinity Alumna to serve in the President’s Cabinet, a great distinction that reflects all of her superb leadership qualities.
Secretary-designate Sebelius now takes on one of the most challenging leadership positions in the United States: she will be overseeing the nation’s health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, as well as a broad range of social service programs. “Fixing health care” has been on the national agenda for nearly 20 years or more, and many commentators today acknowledged the critical link between a health care system that is affordable and sustainable and ensuring economic recovery for the nation. Too many children have no health insurance; for too many employers, the cost of health insurance has become so burdensome that it drives business failures. The stress on families, children and the business community is a debilitating force that has left millions of Americans at risk of having no suitable health care. At the same time, hospitals, doctors and health care providers also feel at-risk because of the way the insurance system works (or doesn’t) to pay their expenses. At the center of this mess are the health insurance companies who must be held accountable for creating a fair, affordable and just insurance system.
Why is Governor Sebelius qualified to tackle this huge challenge? While her credentials as a governor known for bipartisan mangement are important, and her experience as the Kansas Insurance Commissioner also gave her a great deal of background on the ways insurance companies work, perhaps her greatest strength in this role will be her great commitment to justice along with a political pragmatism that leads her to negotiate solutions with many different people at the table. She’s incredibly smart (of course, she’s a Trinity Woman) and also has clear vision about what must be done. She also has political courage, a quality essential to moving the reform agenda from paper to prescription.
See my 2006 blog on “The Governor and the Senator”
Tomorrow: Religion and Politics, or Rendering to Caesar