News Release

Date Posted

Covered California’s Executive Director: Nelson Mandela's Legacy

By Peter V. Lee

As we continue to work to implement the Affordable Care Act here in California and nationally, I want to spend a moment to reflect on the passing of Nelson Mandela.

Thirty years ago, when I was at Berkeley, I was inspired by Mandela’s work to end apartheid in his country. As a student, I was part of a broad movement across our country to support nonviolent and transformational change in South Africa.

Today, I am still inspired by his ability to forgive and consistently seek to do the right thing in the face of injustice. Here at Covered California, we strive to consistently do the right thing, in the face of the constant barrage of misinformation and attempts to bring down the Affordable Care Act. With Mandela in mind, my resolve to build on his legacy continues.

Of Mandela, President Obama said this week:
“We have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us — he belongs to the ages.
"Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa — and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings — and countries — can change for the better.”
Among his legacies in South Africa, was the fact that in 1994, during his first hundred days in office, President Nelson Mandela announced the provision of free health care to children under 6 and to pregnant women.

Then, in 1996, free health care was extended to all people using primary-level public-sector health care services.

The Affordable Care Act is the kind of legacy that Mandela fought for. The Affordable Care Act is a great example of a great nation seeking to deliver on the promise that we can do better for all Americans.

When, 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman,” he was right, and Mandela learned from the Rev. King.

Now, with the Affordable Care Act, we are helping create a more just nation. Just as Nelson Mandela did not change South Africa alone, we are seeing the Affordable Care Act take life with the help of many, in communities across California and across the nation — at dinner tables and in churches, schools, community clinics, chambers of commerce and businesses.

I’m proud to be part of our nation becoming a better and more just place for all Americans. And I’m proud to be able to work in the spirit that Nelson Mandela brought to his nation and the family of nations.