To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid legislation taking place on July 30, each day in July is recognizing a different individual who played an important role in passing the legislation.
LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON
Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) became the 36th President of the United States under tragic circumstances. He was Vice President when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Johnson had previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate, including six years as the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate. He is widely viewed as one of the most powerful and effective U.S. Senate Majority Leaders in history.
Johnson was born August 27, 1908, in Stonewall, Texas, in the Hill Country near the Pedernales River. His father, Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr., was a farmer and served five terms in the Texas state legislature. The Johnson family was forced to abandon its farm to nearby Johnson City, where they lived in a house without electricity or plumbing. Even at a young age, Johnson had big dreams regarding his future. At age 12, he told his classmates, “You know, some day I’m going to be President of the United States.”
In 1930, Johnson entered politics, working on a Congressional campaign and then landing a job with Congressman Richard Kleberg in Washington, D.C. During this time, he met and married Claudia Alta Taylor, also known as “Lady Bird.” In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Johnson to lead the Texas division of the National Youth Administration. After two years, he stepped down from that position in order to run for the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served for 12 years from 1937 to 1949. During this time, he simultaneously served as a commissioned officer in World War II, reporting to General Douglas MacArthur.
In 1948, Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate after a closely contested and controversial primary runoff, which Johnson won by 84 votes, followed by a general election, which he easily won, receiving the nickname, “Landslide Lyndon.” In the Senate, Johnson quickly rose in leadership to become Majority Whip in 1951. When the Republicans took the Senate in 1953, Johnson became Democratic leader, positioning himself for Majority Leader when the Democrats reclaimed the Senate two years later. As Senate Majority leader, Johnson was known to persuade his colleagues using the “Johnson Treatment” meaning his imposing physical presence and relentlessness.
As President, Johnson used his legislative mastery to push through a number of domestic initiatives, including civil rights, poverty, education, and health care legislation. One such initiative was the Medicare bill, which President Johnson signed into law in 1965. During a speech at the signing of the legislation, Johnson said: “There are those, alone in suffering who will now hear the sound of some approaching footsteps coming to help. There are those fearing the terrible darkness of despairing poverty--despite their long years of labor and expectation--who will now look up to see the light of hope and realization. There just can be no satisfaction, nor any act of leadership, that gives greater satisfaction than this.”
JOHN F. KENNEDY
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK), at the age of 43, was the youngest person ever elected as President of the United States. The son of Joseph P. Kennedy, a prominent businessman and US Ambassador to Great Britain, JFK attended Harvard before enlisting in the US Navy in 1941 to become a commander of a PT boat in the Pacific theater. He was awarded the Navy Marine Corps Medal and the Purple Heart for his bravery and the injuries he endured during battle.
Upon returning home, JFK entered politics and was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1946, to the US Senate in 1953, and to the Presidency in 1960. The youthful image, charisma and eloquence President Kennedy projected made him popular at home and abroad. His vision for the nation was optimistic and ambitious. In his inaugural address, he delivered a famous challenge to the American people: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” JFK expressed urgency about pursuing achievements in domestic social programs, space research, and civil rights. “Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world—or to make it the last.”
One of the initiatives he championed was Medicare. Having seen the cost of his own father’s medical bills, he believed Medicare was vital for the nation’s seniors. While his father’s wealth allowed him to afford the medical bills, the vast majority of seniors were not in the same financial position. Despite JFK’s efforts to pass Medicare, Congress voted down the legislation during his Presidency.
In 1963, JFK was tragically assassinated while travelling in a motorcade in Dallas, TX. When President Lyndon, Johnson took office after the assassination, he continued JFK’s dedication to passing Medicare. JFK’s efforts and advocacy on behalf of Medicare helped pave the way for its passage during Johnson’s administration. Johnson advocated for the legislation partly as a tribute to JFK.
Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr. was a United States Senator from Minnesota and Vice President of the United States. Born in Wallace, South Dakota, on May 27, 1911, Humphrey was forced to abandon his dream of attending college at the University of Minnesota after a short time due to the onset of the Great Depression. Instead, he attended the Denver College of Pharmacy and completed two years of coursework in only six months in order to return home to help his father run the family drugstore. Four years later, he was able to return to the University of Minnesota where he received his degree.
Humphrey would settle in Minnesota, working as a professor of political science at Macalester College, as the assistant director of the War Manpower Commission, and as a radio commentator, before running for and winning election to become the youngest Mayor of Minneapolis ever at age 34. As Mayor from 1945 to 1948, Humphrey developed a reputation for fighting bigotry. In 1948, Humphrey emerged on the national scene when he led the fight for a strong civil rights platform at the 1948 Democratic National Convention. That same year he was elected to the United States Senate, where he would serve for a total of more than 20 years. His various legislative efforts also created the Peace Corps, Job Corps, Youth Conservation Corps, Department of Housing Urban Development, Commodities Futures Trading Commission, Food for Peace, Food Stamps, Federal School Lunch, and Head Start.
As Senator, Humphrey served in leadership and promoted a wide variety of health care, social welfare, civil rights, tax reform, and jobs bills. The first bill he introduced was a proposal to establish medical care for the elderly financed through the Social Security system, a proposal that would later be enacted as Medicare in 1965. Humphrey once said, “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life—the children those who are in the twilight of life—the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life—the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” After leading the effort to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Humphrey became Vice President under President Lyndon Johnson. As Vice President, he helped ensure the passage and enactment of Medicare. After running as the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 1968, Humphrey was reelected to the United States Senate in 1971 where he continued his record of important domestic achievements until he died of cancer in 1978.
EVERETT MCKINLEY DIRKSEN
Everett McKinley Dirksen was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate from Illinois. He established a record as one of the most effective legislators in history. Born 1986 in Pekin, Illinois, Dirksen attended the University of Minnesota before leaving school in order to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1917. After two years of service, he returned to Pekin where he worked in manufacturing and management before winning election as city commissioner of Pekin. Dirksen also served as commissioner of finance for four years. This resulted in his winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1932 and the U.S. Senate in 1950. In the Senate, Dirksen served as Republican Minority Leader during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. While initially an opponent of Medicare, President Lyndon Johnson was able to convince Dirksen to compromise regarding his opposition to the program. Dirksen once said, “I’m an old-fashioned, garden variety of Republican who believes in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, in Abraham Lincoln, who accepts the challenges as they arise from time to time, and who is not unappreciative of the fact that this is a dynamic economy in which we live and sometimes you have to change your position.”
“Make it better. Do all that you can to make life better for others.”
Claude Pepper was five years old when he wrote down his intention to become a U.S. Senator. He made good on his promise, winning election to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate just two months after his 35th birthday.
Pepper grew up in Dudleyville, Alabama, and worked his way through the University of Alabama and Harvard Law School. He established a law practice in Florida and got into politics because he said it presented unlimited ways to help others, particularly the poor and underprivileged. Because of his numerous talents and unparalleled oratorical gifts, Pepper became President Franklin Roosevelt's point man on the New Deal.
In 1936, FDR sent Pepper, who understood German, to evaluate Hitler's intentions. Pepper returned and sounded the alarm that the dictator was bent for world domination. Pepper helped FDR prepare the nation for war and was for his trouble hung in effigy on several occasions. Undeterred, he pushed through the Senate legislation called "lend-lease," which allowed American ships and planes to be sold and immediately delivered to the British and thereafter replaced in the U.S. arsenal when new ones were built. This action is credited with saving the British and turning the tide in World War II.
Pepper lost in a vicious election in 1950 but rose like a phoenix when a new Congressional district was created in Miami in 1960. He was elected to the House where he was treated like the celebrity that he was and honored with a coveted seat on the House Rules Committee. Pepper had campaigned for the Kennedy-Johnson ticket in 1960 and advocated for Medicare in his district, which had a very high concentration of seniors. President John F. Kennedy, in 1963, appealed to Pepper for help on his Medicare bill which was stalled in the Senate. Senator Frank E. Moss simultaneously recruited Pepper to be the House advocate for his idea to include home-based health care in this legislation and Pepper, who introduced such legislation in 1941, quickly agreed. From his post on the House Rules Committee, Pepper continued to work with Ways and Means Committee Chairman Wilbur Mills to shepherd Medicare through the House. Medicare was enacted on July 30, 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in part as a tribute to JFK who was assassinated in 1963.
From that day forward, Pepper increasingly focused on health care. His legislation created 11 of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He worked as the House counterpart to Senator Frank E. Moss who was doing amazing work with the Senate Aging Committee. Together they worked to bring about the creation of a counterpart House Aging Committee. Pepper became the chairman of the newly created House Committee. He used his position to help defeat mandatory retirement laws, to defend social security, and to expand Medicare's home care program so seniors could receive care at home instead of being placed into a nursing home. Pepper did his best to stamp out medical quackery, to fight frauds perpetrated against the elderly and conducted hearings on organized crimes efforts to steal money from Medicare. In 1981 and 1983 respectively, CBS “60 Minutes” and TIME magazine both proclaimed Pepper as a “Rock Star for Seniors” and a “Hero of the Elderly. In 1988, Pepper set out to accomplish one of the few unfinished goals that he had set for himself: the amendment to Medicare which would include a home health care program for all Americans who were chronically ill or disabled regardless of their age. After an impassioned speech on the House Floor, Pepper and his allies came up a few votes short. Pepper died in 1989. He was showered with honors for his 50 years of public service including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The main NIH building was named for him and he was given the rarest of honors: Congress voted that his body lie in state in the U.S. Capitol.
FRANK E. MOSS
"Whether for the individual or for the nation, self is best served by transcending self."
Frank E. Mossrepresented Utah in the United States Senate from 1959 to 1977. He accomplished so much during this time frame that some historians suggested he should be seen as the ideal Congressional role model. He was marked by a passion for excellence, the gift of vision, great integrity and a burning determination to make life better for others.
Moss was one of the nation's great champions of the environment, leading the crusade against global warming; at the same time he fought to secure for America the abundant water resources that would be needed in the future. In order to preserve the nation's heritage for future generations, his legislation created more national parks than anyone who has served in Congress. He became the top advocate for consumers; most of the important legislation bears his name. Elected Chairman of the Aeronautics and Space Committee, Moss became the top proponent of the space program, and of the resulting spin-off products such as telehealth. Because of his achievements Moss was elected to leadership positions including the number three Senate post, Secretary of the Democratic Policy Conference.
Without doubt Senator Moss's greatest contributions were in health care beginning with his appointment to the Senate Special Committee on Aging. He played a key role in the enactment of Medicare bringing fellow Senators Edmund S. Muskie, Phillip Hart, Maureen Neuberger and Edward M. Kennedy together in a barnstorming series of hearings that rallied crowds across the nation and which were covered by television. He was the main advocate for including coverage for home health care in Medicare, and he recruited Congressman Claude Pepper to push for its inclusion in the House of Representatives. It was the beginning of a great partnership. The two men worked closely together in liberalizing access to home health care and to create the Medicare hospice legislation. Moss who was Chairman of the Health and Long Term Care Subcommittees of the Senate Aging Committee helped push for the creation of a comparable Committee in the House which was chaired with distinction by Mr. Pepper. In the end, Moss amassed a prodigious record. He chaired more hearings, authored more reports, wrote and helped bring about the enactment of more legislation helping seniors and disabled persons than anyone. What is notable is that having helped to create much legislation, Senator Moss took the time to conduct oversight hearings to measure how the laws were working. Notably he created the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services to help police Medicare fraud and created State Medicaid Fraud Units to monitor and fight fraud in this health care program designed to serve the needs of indigents.
Senator Moss arguably accomplished as much, or more, for the nation after he left Congress. He served as Chairman of the Board of the Museum of African Art and of the Foundation for Hospice and Homecare. With the help of his longtime friend, Val J. Halamandaris, he wrote a best selling book, "Too Old, Too Sick, Too Bad." The two men collaborated in the creation of the Caring Institute in 1985, a foundation inspired by Mother Teresa, whose purpose was the promotion of caring, integrity and public service. As a crowning achievement, Senator Moss had the honor of opening the Caring Hall of Fame three blocks east of the U.S. Capitol, which honors individuals selected by the Institute who are large of spirit. "We need more caring people in America. Caring is love in action," said Senator Moss.
EDWARD M. KENNEDY
Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy was a United States Senator from Massachusetts for 47 years, from 1962 to 2009. When he died in 2009, he ranked fourth among the longest serving senators of all time. He arrived in the Senate when his brother, John F. Kennedy, was President of the United States, and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, was the United States Attorney General. Born 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts, Kennedy was the youngest of nine. He attended Harvard College before enlisting in the United States Army and later receiving his law degree from the University of Virginia. In 1960, Kennedy worked on his brother John’s campaign for President of the United States, managing the campaign in the Western states. In 1962, he was elected to the U.S. Senate where he received a seat on the Senate Committee on Aging, which had been created to bring about the enactment of Medicare. He played an important role behind the scenes pushing as hard as he could for Medicare. It was not until after the assassination of his brother, President Kennedy, that Medicare would be enacted in 1965. Kennedy remained an important advocate for Medicare throughout the years and fought to expand access to health care.
Arthur Flemming served as the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare from 1958 – 1961, and as the Commissioner on Aging form 1974 - 1981. Born 1905 in Kingston, New York, Flemming worked as a reporter after he graduated from high school before attending Ohio Wesleyan University. After excelling in college, Flemming moved to Washington, D.C., where he became a government professor and the debate coach at American University. From 1939 to 1948, Flemming served on the U.S. Civil Service Commission. He continued working in federal government before becoming President of the University of Oregon, and then Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare from 1958 – 1961 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. After President John F. Kennedy was elected, in 1961 Senator Jacob Javits asked Flemming to chair a commission to bring about the enactment of Medicare. Because of Flemming’s stellar reputation, the report the commission authored under his leadership helped break the opposition to Medicare. From 1968 to 1971, Flemming served as the President of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He continued his advocacy on behalf of the elderly, later serving as the chair of the second White House Conference on Aging and as U.S. Commissioner on Aging under President Richard Nixon.
ROBERT N. BUTLER, MD
Dr. Robert N. Butler was an accomplished geriatrician who provided an important voice in alerting the nation to the “graying of America.” Butler was a strong advocate for the elderly, who decried the injustices perpetrated against those who are old and helped popularize the term “ageism.” Born 1927 in New York City, Butler attended college and received his medical degree from Columbia University. He then moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked in private practice and as a faculty member at various institutions. During his career, Butler regularly appeared before the Senate Committee on Aging in order to discuss his research regarding the poor level of care provided to the elderly. While individuals like Senators Frank Moss and Claude Pepper provided advocacy on these issues in Congress, Butler provided the scientific evidence behind the cause and helped the Committee on Aging shatter commonly believed myths. Butler later served as the first director of the National Institute on Aging.
ROBERT M. BALL
Robert M. Ball served as the Commissioner of Social Security for three Presidents from 1962 to 1973. He not only guided the Social Security program, but helped achieve the enactment of Medicare and helped implement the program after it was enacted. Born 1915 in New York City, Ball attended college and received his master’s degree in economics at Wesleyan University. After leaving Wesleyan at the age of 27, Ball started working at the Social Security Administration. After his election in 1960, President John F. Kennedy appointed Ball Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. While Medicare was not enacted under President Kennedy, Ball remained Commissioner under President Lyndon Johnson when the Medicare bill was enacted in 1965. As Commissioner, Ball appointed a committee to establish Medicare, and it was his responsibility to set up and administer the program after it was enacted.
WILBUR D. MILLS
Wilbur Daigh Mills was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Arkansas from 1939 to 1977. He was one of the three longest serving public officials from Arkansas in history. Born and raised in Kensett, Arkansas, Mills graduated from Hendrix College in Conway and later from Harvard Law School. After receiving his law degree, Mills returned to Arkansas and became the County Judge of White County in 1935. In 1939, he stepped down as judge and was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he would serve for nearly 40 years. During his time in Congress, Mills was known by some as “the most powerful man in Washington.” He served as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for 17 years from 1958 to 1974. As Chairman, Mills played a crucial role in the establishment of Medicare. While initially skeptical of the program’s cost due to his conservatism, Mills would later help negotiate and write the version of the legislation that was enacted into law. In a speech at the signing of the legislation, President Lyndon Johnson praised the “legislative genius of the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Wilbur Mills,” for his work in moving the bill through Congress.
WILBUR J. COHEN
Wilbur Cohen, or “Mr. Social Security” as some historians refer to him, significantly contributed to the establishment of nearly every major social program during his career in federal service. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Cohen moved to Washington, D.C., after college and started working as a research assistant for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Security where he worked closely on the drafting of the original Social Security Act. After President Roosevelt signed the bill into law, Cohen became the first employee of the Social Security Administration.
In 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy asked Cohen to join his presidential campaign as a policy advisor. Cohen advised Kennedy to highlight health care for the aged as a key campaign issue and to argue for extending social insurance programs to cover health care. After the election, President Kennedy appointed Cohen as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, where he would shape most of the important domestic legislation during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies.
Cohen played an important role in the establishment of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, arguing that it would serve to focus attention on the health needs of the aged and as a counterpoint to the inaction of the Senate Finance Committee. Cohen argued the new committee was needed to make an end-run around the Finance Committee, which was blocking the Medicare legislation at the time.
WILLIAM R. HUTTON
William R. Hutton was the colorful and charismatic leader of the National Council of Senior Citizens. A trained newspaperman, Hutton produced Senior Citizen News and built a powerful grassroots network to achieve legislative goals such as the Medicare bill. Born 1916 in England, Hutton served in World War II before moving to Washington, D.C., where he joined the National Press Club. Hutton developed a distribution network and wrote often about the elderly. As a result, President John F. Kennedy’s administration asked Hutton to help bring about the enactment of Medicare by writing a series are articles to be distributed under the bylines of important public leaders. Hutton later became president of the National Council of Senior Citizens and developed a grassroots network of advocates for the elderly. At the signing of the Medicare bill, President Lyndon Johnson credited Hutton for his contributions in helping achieve the enactment of Medicare.
Jack Ossofsky led the National Council on the Aging (NCOA), helping run successful national programs to support seniors. Born 1925 in Bronx, New York, Ossofsky graduated from College of the City of New York with a degree in economics before becoming a union organizer. In his union job, Ossofsky worked with and became a member of NCOA, volunteering a great deal of his time to the organization. In the early 1960s, Ossofsky helped organize grassroots efforts to bring about the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. After leaving the union to work for NCOA fulltime, Ossofsky ran programs such as Medicare Alert to help sign up eligible seniors after the program was enacted. Over the years, Ossofsky elevated within NCOA’s leadership eventually rising to the top post of executive director.
Cyril F. Brickfield worked at the American Association of Retired Persons for 20 years, including 12 years as the executive director, transforming the organization into a powerhouse in Washington, D.C. Born 1920 in Brooklyn, New York, Brickfield graduated from college before joining the United States Air Force during World War II. In 1945, he returned to New York where he graduated from Fordham Law School in 1948. After working as an aide to Congressman Emanuel Celler of New York, Brickfield joined the Veterans Administration in 1961. In 1967, he became the Executive Director of AARP. Throughout his career, Brickfield was a strong advocate for Medicare and Medicaid. Under his leadership, AARP increased its membership from roughly 1 million to more than 25 million at the time of his retirement.
Michael Joseph “Mike” Mansfield rose from humble beginnings to achieve a distinguished career as both the longest serving Senate Majority Leader and longest serving US Ambassador to Japan in history.
Born 1903 in New York City, Mansfield’s mother passed away when he was three years old at which point his father sent him to live with his aunt and uncle in Great Falls, Montana. At the age of 14, Mansfield withheld his true age in order to join the U.S. Navy during World Ward I, later serving in the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. Following his service, he returned to Montana and began working in the copper mines in Butte, the town where he met and fell in love with his future wife, a local school teacher, who encouraged him to continue his education. At the University of Montana in Missoula, he studied and became a professor of history.
Mansfield began his career in politics in 1942 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served five terms. In 1952, he won election to the U.S. Senate where he pursued his interest in foreign affairs. The Senate Majority Leader at the time, Lyndon Johnson, selected Mansfield to serve as Majority Whip. When Lyndon Johnson was elected Vice President under President John F. Kennedy, Mansfield became Majority Leader. In this position from 1961 to 1977, he successfully shepherded the New Frontier and Great Society programs through Congress, including the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid.
While he held great power and influence as Senate Majority Leader, his approach was much different than Lyndon Johnson’s aggressive approach. Mansfield said, “There’s a great deal of individualism and breakdown of comity in Congress. There’s too much reaching for the sound bite on TC and not enough cooperation between the two parties and the two branches. Politics is getting too expensive.” After stepping down as Majority Leader, Mansfield served as U.S. Ambassador to Japan under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan from 1977 to 1989.
Emanuel Celler was a member of the United States House of Representatives from New York for nearly 50 years. The end of his Congressional service came in 1972 when he became the most senior Congressman at the time to ever lose a primary election. During his time in Congress, Celler was a strong advocate for social programs, including health care and civil rights legislation. Born in Brooklyn, Celler graduated from Columbia University and Columbia Law School before becoming a practicing lawyer. In 1923, Celler was elected to the United States Congress representing the district that included Brooklyn and Queens. One of the bills he helped champion was legislation that resulted in the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Celler also authored and guided through Congress multiple civil rights bills. “I feel like I’ve climbed Mount Everest,” he said after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite his exertion to pass that bill, he believed hard work was not the only key to success in Congress. “To be a successful Congressman,” he said, “one must have the friendliness of a child, the enthusiasm of a teen-ager, the assurance of a college boy, the diplomacy of a wayward husband, the curiosity of a cat and the good humor of an idiot.”
Carl Albert served as an Oklahoma member of the United States House of Representatives for 30 years and as Speaker of the legislative body from 1971 to 1977. Admirers referred to the 5-foot-4-inch Albert as the “Little Giant from Little Dixie,” based on his prominent role in public service. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Albert studied at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and then joined the United States Army in 1941, earning a bronze medal and the rank of lieutenant colonel as a judge advocate general on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur before leaving the service in 1946. That same year he was elected to the United States Congress as a Democrat with a moderate point of view: “I like to face the issues in terms of conditions and not in terms of someone’s inborn political philosophy,” he said. As Majority Leader, Albert worked with both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations to pass the legislation resulting in the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid. After failing to pass the bill during Kennedy’s presidency, Albert modified the House rules in order to make it easier for the Majority to pass the legislation. In signing the Medicare and Medicaid into law, President Lyndon Johnson commended the “great leadership” of then-Majority Leader Albert in helping to steer the legislation through Congress. Later, as Speaker of the House, Albert would help guide the nation through the Watergate crisis.
JOHN W. MCCORMACK
John William McCormack served in the United States House of Representatives for 43 years including almost a decade as Speaker of the House. He also served as House Majority Leader on three different occasions. His difficult childhood growing up in Boston contributed to his efforts in public service to address poverty. McCormack quit school after the eighth grade in order to work at a brokerage firm to support his family. While he never attended high school, McCormack studied law in the evenings and was able to pass the Massachusetts bar exam by the age of 21. After serving in World War I, McCormack pursued his interest in politics, winning election to the Massachusetts state legislature and later to the United States Congress. He eventually became Speaker of the House as a self-declared “national” Congressman who represented the interests of the country as a whole rather than only those of his district. As Speaker of the House from 1962 to 1971, McCormack had an important role in the Great Society legislation—including the Medicare and Medicaid legislation. “I have no hesitancy in insisting that Government in an emergency do everything that can reasonably be done to relieve human suffering and distress,” he said. Throughout his distinguished career, he displayed a deep passion for public service and the legislative body in which he served. “My heart is in this House,” he said, in 1970, at the time of his retirement. “I have an intense love for this body.”
Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. was a distinguished Majority Leader and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives who devoted 50 years of his life to public service. During that time, he was a consistent champion for the common person. He believed deeply it was the responsibility of government to improve the quality of life for all its citizens. In his office, he kept a framed copy of quote by Hubert Humphrey: “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” This compassion was fundamental to his career in public service. He consistently championed and supported legislation protecting human rights and extending opportunities for all citizens, including antipoverty, Civil Rights, and the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. O’Neill, a skilled negotiator who described politics as “the art of effective compromise,” successfully fought to preserve Social Security in the 1980s. “No society can exist on a public philosophy of ‘I got mine; forget the others,” O’Neill said. “America has worked, America has progressed, because we have combined our enterprise, both public and private, for the good of all.”
PHILLIP A. HART
“Mr. Integrity,” the press and admiring colleagues called him. Phillip Aloysius Hart developed a reputation for fairness and sound judgment throughout his distinguished career, which included nearly two decades (1959-1976) as a U.S. Senator from Michigan. Born in Pennsylvania, Hart attended Georgetown University and the University of Michigan Law School before joining the U.S. Army. He was severely wounded during the D-Day assault in Normandy and returned home a war hero. Hart then became active in Michigan politics, working as a legal adviser to Governor C. Mennen Williams and later as Lieutenant Governor of Michigan. One of his passions was to racial discrimination and prejudice. After two terms as Lieutenant Governor, Hart was elected to the U.S. Senate where he found a voice as a consumer activist, cosponsoring virtually every major piece of consumer legislation, including the Drug Safety Act of 1962, the Truth in Packaging Act of 1965, and the Truth in Lending Act of 1966. Living up to his reputation for integrity, Hart voluntarily practiced self-disclosure and set a precedent by making transparent the financial details of his office operations. Hart helped push Medicare and Medicaid over the finish line by supporting the legislation in 1965. “I remember the expression,” he said, “that the politician is the law-priest of society. The corporal works of mercy are part of the business of how the government runs. A solid case can be made that, whatever the venality that attaches to the profession, politics is still a high vocation… I have regarded it as an opportunity to make a more humane life for everybody.”
RUSSELL B. LONG
Russell Billiu Long is the only U.S. Senator whose mother and father also served in the U.S. Senate. Not to mention his uncle and cousin served in the US House. During his 39 years as a U.S. Senator from Louisiana, Long used his power and fierce determination to support proposals that worked for the public good. “I am not seeking to pass legislation to favor my personal interests. Instead, I am supporting legislation which I believe to be good for all Americans, and resisting proposals which would be harmful to the state which I have the honor to represent.” Long was a member of the Senate Finance Committee, where he fought for liberalizing benefits for Social Security pensioners and for securing necessary welfare payment increases for the elderly, the blind, the disabled, and dependent children. He supported the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. Throughout his distinguished career, he never took his time in Congress for granted: “I’ve always had that ambition to serve here and I’ve been watching this Congress for more than 50 years, as one who hoped to serve here and then as one who served in these halls in Washington.”
EDMUND S. MUSKIE
Edmund S. Muskie was a lawyer, governor, US Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter, and one of the greatest of those who served in the United States Senate. After serving two terms in the Maine state legislature, Muskie was elected as Maine’s first Democratic governor in 1954. Four years later he won a seat in the United States Senate, where he served for 21 years, until 1980. Senator Muskie served on the Committees on Aging, Budget, Banking and Currency, Government Operations, Foreign Relations, and Public Works. As a member of the Senate Aging Committee, he sponsored legislation to create Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, and in 1972 he led the fight to liberalize Medicare’s home care benefits. He was among the strongest advocates for mental health care, leading the fight to ensure that no one was unnecessarily institutionalized. In 1981 President Jimmy Carter awarded Muskie the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
FRANK F. CHURCH
Frank Forrester Church was a United States Senator from Idaho for 24 years from 1957 – 1981. Born 1924 in Boise, Idaho, Church attended Stanford University before joining the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he finished his degree at Stanford where he also received his law degree. While a law student at Stanford, Church received a diagnosis of terminal cancer though he made a miraculous recovery and graduated in 1950. After returning to Idaho, Church unsuccessfully ran for the state legislature before winning a U.S. Senate seat in 1956. At the age of 32, he was one of the youngest people ever elected to the U.S. Senate. As Senator, Church served on the Aging Committee and became a strong advocate for the elderly. Church supported the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. He would later become the chair of the Aging Committee and helped expand home health services.
CLINTON P. ANDERSON
Clinton Presba Anderson served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and US Senator from New Mexico. Born in South Dakota, Anderson attended the University of Michigan but left school and returned to South Dakota in order to support his family by working at a newspaper after his father broke his back. The next year, Anderson tried to join the military to serve in World War I but learned he had tuberculosis and was given only six months to live. Upon receiving the diagnosis, he moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in order to receive treatment at a well-respected facility. He recovered and his experience with tuberculosis inspired him to raise money to fight the disease and to establish the public health department for the State of New Mexico.
After furthering his career in journalism and business in New Mexico, Anderson became increasingly interested in public life. In 1941, he was elected to the US House of Representatives where he served for four years until President Harry Truman appointed him US Secretary of Agriculture in 1945. Anderson achieved success in food production and distribution issues as Secretary. Upon stepping down, he was inclined to retire from public life, but Democrats were able to convince him to run for the open Senate seat in New Mexico.
In the Senate, Anderson would become a key advocate for the legislation establishing Medicare and Medicaid. During President John F. Kennedy’s Administration, Anderson was the lead sponsor of Kennedy’s Medicare proposal bill. After the legislation failed and the tragedy of JFK’s assassination, Anderson rededicated himself to the bill during President Lyndon Johnson’s Administration. When signing the bill into law, Johnson thanked Anderson for this “able leadership in Congress,” saying “Senator Clinton Anderson from New Mexico fought for Medicare through the years in the Senate.” It was a cause close to Anderson’s heart. As he once said, “social insurance places its emphasis on the characteristic which distinguishes our free society from others—dignity of the individual.”
JOHN D. DINGELL, JR.
John David Dingell, Jr. and his father John D. Dingell, Sr. together represented Michigan in the U.S. House of Representatives for a combined 80 years. Dingell, Jr. himself is one of just three individuals to serve in the U.S. House for 50 years. After first winning election to the House, Dingell, like his father before him, dedicated himself to passing Medicare as well as universal health care. “It’s hard to believe that there was once no Social Security or Medicare,” Dingell said. “The Dingell family helped change that. My father worked on Social Security and for national health insurance, and I sat in the chair and presided over the House as Medicare passed (in 1965). I went with Lyndon Johnson for the signing of Medicare at the Harry S. Truman Library, and I have successfully fought efforts to privatize Social Security and Medicare.” During Dingell’s time serving in the body, he saw the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid as well as the enactment health care reform legislation.
Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr. was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana for over two decades. Boggs was Majority Leader when the plane on which he was travelling disappeared in Alaska during a campaign trip for Congressman Nick Begich in 1972. The aircraft was presumed to have crashed and never discovered. Both Boggs and Begich were presumed dead. During his time in Congress, Boggs was instrumental in the passage of key domestic legislation including the Voting Rights Act, even though he represented a Southern state where the legislation was unpopular. Boggs rose up the ranks to serve as House Majority Whip during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, whipping the votes to pass key components of the New Frontier and Great Society programs. One such piece of legislation was the bill that resulted in the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. Boggs became Majority Leader in 1971 and remained in that position until the day of his tragic disappearance.
Maurine Neuberger was the second woman to serve in the United States Senate. After her husband, Senator Richard Neuberger, died of cancer in 1960, she won a special election to fill his seat. During her tenure in the Senate, Neuberger was a strong advocate for the legislation to establish Medicare and Medicaid. She also played an important role in advancing an array of public health and consumer protection issues. Neuberger has been credited with establishing the prescient warning label on cigarettes, “The Surgeon General has determined that smoking may be hazardous to your health,” which paved the way for further attention to the issue and later more strongly worded warnings. To this day, Neuberger is the only female to have served as U.S. Senator from Oregon.
JOHN W. GARDNER
John W. Gardner oversaw the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid as Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Lyndon Johnson. The New York Times referred to Gardner as the “Father of Invention.” In addition to his efforts on Medicare and Medicaid, he presided over the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and devoted much of his life to philanthropy. Gardner maintained a dogged insistence on the importance of self-improvement, authoring Self-Renewal and striving for a “youthfulness of spirit” well into his 80s. “Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt,” Gardner said. “Meaning is something you build into your life” through a continual process of self-renewal. “Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.”
ANTHONY J. CELEBREZZE
Anthony J. Celebrezze served in the Ohio Senate and was the only Mayor of Cleveland in history to serve for five consecutive terms. Celebrezze was then appointed by President John F. Kennedy to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, a post he held under President Lyndon B. Johnson as well. During his time as Secretary, from 1962 to 1965, Celebrezze helped develop the Medicare and Medicaid legislation and shepherded it through Congress. President Johnson, who later appointed Celebrezze to a federal judgeship, said of Celebrezze, “with tolerance and energy with singled minded purpose, he presided over the greatest thrust for the future of American education and health that his nation has ever known.”