By Nick McFerron
“In this country, which is really the home of the free market, there was something un-American about the idea of the government paying people to work in companies,” said Katty Kay, a BBC Washington correspondent, at the Union Forum Sept. 30.
Kay studied modern languages at Oxford University and began to work at the Bank of England before moving to Zimbabwe to work for an aid organization.
As a correspondent, Kay has worked in four continents and covered many historic events.
While in Zimbabwe, she was approached by a journalist who encouraged her to join the BBC.
As a BBC correspondent, Kay has had the opportunity to cover the independence of Namibia and the end of apartheid in South Africa.
After leaving Zimbabwe, she spent time in the United Kingdom working for the BBC until she went to Japan as an overseas correspondent.
Since 1996 Kay has been working out of Washington D.C. and in that time she has seen three U.S. presidents in the White House and experienced the terrorists attacks of 9/11.
Kay began her speech by mentioning a story she covered about how Perry County, Tenn., used funds from the economic stimulus package.
The local county government used the funds to begin paying people to work in companies, Kay said.
She went on to talk about how this idea lowered the unemployment of Perry County from 27 percent to 19 percent.
“I think (Franklin D. Roosevelt) would be proud,” Kay said.
The importance of the involvement of young people in the political scene also came into Kay’s speech.
“The most obvious thing that students can do, anyone over 18, is get out there and vote,” Kay said.
As Kay continued, she spoke about the great potential that young people have to make a difference in politics.
“It’s about being an active citizen,” Kay said regarding the importance of being involved in what is happening in national politics.
“You can write a letter to your congressman,” she said as she reinforced the idea that people should always be trying to make the government better.
She talked about how young people can make a change by referencing the past presidential election, when young people made a large show of support for President Obama.
“I really hope that we’ve untapped something,” Kay said about the enthusiasm in politics shown by many students.
Kay spoke about the debates in Washington that go between the extremes of conservative and liberal.
“I think it is sometimes too easy to just slap a label … on a program,” Kay said regarding the method of employment in Perry County.
Kay said she was surprised when this type of debate hit health care, and she then talked about “death panels,” describing them as “absurd.”
She also said America will not adopt a fully socialized medical scheme.
“It’s not a realistic place to start our debate,” she said.
“Most countries in Europe have mixed health care systems, they are partly public and partly private.
“No politician that is trying to run for re-election with the hope of actually getting elected would start disparaging the public component of the health care system.”
Kay shared some statistics concerning health care.
“The United States spends 17 percent of its economy on health care. (It is) No. 1 in terms of cost,” Kay said.
France only spends 11 percent on health care, but has the best health care, she continued.
Compared to other countries, America is 37th in quality of care “that puts you behind Costa Rica and just above Cuba,” Kay said.
Something has to be done to improve the quality of care given in America, Kay said. More has to be done to improve preventive care and surgery survival rate.
As Kay concluded, she spoke about the importance of traveling throughout the world and broadening a person’s worldview in this increasingly global community.
“Get out and see the world,” Kay said. “Forget that well-paid job in New York for six months or a year and hit the sidewalks of New Delhi instead.”