|Her Head Is Held High|
On tours of the U.S. Capitol, one of the most popular stops is Statuary Hall: a large, two-story chamber that, for more than five decades, served as the meeting place for the U.S. House of Representatives. These days, the room serves as an exhibit of statues honoring many of America’s most prominent historical figures: Samuel Adams, Helen Keller, Ronald Reagan, George Washington, and many more.
On Wednesday, a new figure took her place among the giants.
Rosa Parks, the civil rights icon, was honored in a new statue made possible by an act of Congress that I cosponsored in 2005. She is depicted sitting down, in recognition of her most famous act of civil disobedience – yet in stone as in life, her head is held high.
I was joined at the statue’s unveiling by Trenton’s own civil rights icon: Edith Savage-Jennings, who has blazed trails ever since she helped lead the desegregation of Trenton’s movie theaters as a teenager. Edith and Rosa Parks were close friends; in fact, in 1993, Rosa walked Edith down the aisle at her wedding.
Few people know that Rosa Parks was, among her many roles, a staffer in the United States Congress. She served in Representative John Conyers’ Detroit office from 1965 until she retired in 1988. To me, her service as a staffer underscores both her dedication and her humility. I have no doubt that, if she had chosen, Rosa Parks could have been elected to Congress and would have been a towering figure among lawmakers – yet she chose a different form of service, one that was quieter but just as meaningful. Her life story reminds us that there is always a way for one to serve.
One Step Closer to Affordable Health Care for All
Earlier this week, Gov. Christie announced that New Jersey will take advantage of the health care reform law to expand Medicaid coverage to nearly 300,000 more New Jerseyans. Not only will this expansion provide greater health security for many in New Jersey, but it also will result in substantial health care savings.
One of the reasons I supported health care reform is because it was designed to provide every American a comprehensive and affordable health insurance option. This week’s announcement brings us one step closer to that goal.
Indeed, after some hesitation, many governors – Republicans and Democrats alike – are recognizing that implementing the Affordable Care Act is in the interest of their state’s residents. Some holdouts remain, but it has become apparent to most that health care reform is here to stay and that states should take advantage of the law where it helps and work to improve the law where there are shortcomings.
Earlier this week, the U.S. House Committee on Government and Oversight Reform held a hearing to examine how federal agencies fund employee travel.
In light of reports in recent years of wasteful spending on federal conferences, this is an important area for oversight. Yet as I emphasized in my testimony to the committee, we must also work to preserve the many benefits of appropriate travel, which can include greater collaboration and innovation.
As a scientist, I know firsthand how important scientific conferences and meetings can be. The informal conversations, as well as the formal presentations and poster sessions, lead to new ideas and discoveries. This is not just idle speculation: a recent anti-cancer drug, for instance, was made possible only by the collaboration between scientists from three laboratories that took place at conferences.
Federal support for collaboration can be an investment in innovation and economic development.