© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Congratulations, Mr. President-elect. Have you got a minute?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 5, 2008 - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to talk to you about a new economic stimulus package, the Russian president wants to mend diplomatic fences and Patricia Schuba of St. Louis would like to take you along the next time she sees her doctor.

"You really don't know until you're there, just how bad it can be to lose good health-care insurance,'' explains Schuba, 44, who has chronic diabetes.

Schuba was among Beacon readers who either shared their priorities for the new president by joining the Public Insight Network or were interviewed on Election Day. Health-care reform and the economy topped the list of concerns, mirroring national voter trends. Other suggestions included making college education more affordable and improving the international reputation of the United States.

Schuba, 44, said she lost her job as a dietitian after a local hospital downsized staff and has been unable to find comparable employment. She struggles with the cost of her insulin injections -- about $500 a month. Because she enrolled in college to take graduate courses, she was able to buy a limited student health insurance plan -- but it doesn't make a dent in her medical bills.

Schuba said she took heart in Barack Obama's election because she believes he will move forward with health-care reform -- and also at leveling the playing field for American workers in a competitive global economy.

"There is a sense that there will be some fairness,'' Schuba said. "People have spent a lot of money on education, but there are no jobs."

Nancy Holtzscher of Glen Carbon said she would like to show the new president people who are being laid off from their jobs and face losing their health insurance.

"We are all just one major medical problem or job layoff away from being out on the streets,'' she said. "The difference is that some of us realize it and are voting for change and others haven't figured it out yet and are clinging to the status quo.''

Holtzscher, 50, said she is willing to pay her share of the cost of universal health care, even though her family has been fortunate to never be without health insurance.

"Go ahead and tax me more if you need to get it done,'' she said. "No one can explain to me why access to health care is tied to how good your current job is right at this minute."

Holtscher, who is a Realtor, said she believes the economy has reached a point where it will begin to "straighten up," and she is hopeful that Obama's intelligence and education will enable him to find solutions to the nation's complex financial problems.

"For the past eight years, I wanted somebody smarter than I am to be elected as president, and last night was a realization of that," she said.

Rose Washington, who voted in Wentzville shortly before the polls closed, is a motivated first-time voter. Washington, a kindergarten supervisor, said she is concerned about education and wants a good future for her 15-month-old grandson.

Washington's daughter Katrina Tocco said the family is struggling because of the economy. "I'm a single mom," Tocco said. "And I want to know that everything will be OK."

James Spies, 64, a retired school principal who volunteers with a Catholic charity, said he would like to take the new president on a tour of St. Louis to show him what poverty is really like for people who can't afford to pay their utility bills.

"I don't see how people can live who have as little as these people have,'' Spies said.

On a recent early morning drive through the city, Spies said it was distressing to see homeless people sleeping on steam grates to stay warm.

"I think we can do better,'' he said.

Spies said Obama will have some tough choices to make as he tackles the nation's economic troubles.

"I think he's going to have to take some stands that are not going to be popular,'' Spies said. "He is going to have to stand on principles, and he is going to have to bring people together."

Spies also has a message for his fellow Americans: Give the new president some time.

"He has inherited all this,'' Spies said. "I don't know what the solution is; it is very complicated. I just don't want people to get disappointed and angry."

Kristin Hare contributed to this story.

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.