Page 2 of 2   <      

Iowa man joins protest against Obama and health-care reform

Randy Millam, 52, was resolved to attend a protest rally on the University of Iowa campus where President Obama made a speech on health-care reform on March 25, 2010.

Another: "It's communism!"

Another: "Obamunism!"

By now a group of about 200 Obama supporters had stopped to watch and listen, congregating across the street from the protesters. Seven police officers stood in the middle of the road, monitoring both sides. On one sidewalk: Obama T-shirts, health-care-reform advocates, and students from the University of Iowa, one of whom held a sign inviting Obama to join him at a local bar for Thursday night's $1 you-call-it drink special. On the other sidewalk: college Republicans, middle-aged conservatives and retirees who waved homemade signs, bullhorns, doctored pictures of Obama and yellow tea party flags, which showed coiled snakes under the motto "Don't Tread on Me."

Millam looked across the street at the students and shook his head. "They don't understand that our government doesn't listen," he said. He had spent the past week calling congressional offices and the White House to tell them about his feelings on health-care reform, waiting through hold times only to reach answering machines and busy signals. Maybe he could enlighten these Obama supporters. He stepped closer to the street and raised the megaphone.

"I voted for a Democrat once," he said. "I was young once. Kumbaya and all that. Then I grew up. If you believe in freedom, you need to come to this side of the street."

Nobody moved.

"If you don't think it takes 2,700 pages to explain a health-care plan, come to this side of the street."

Still nothing.

"If you haven't given up on our Constitution, on our founders, on the hope and dream of a free country, then come to this side of the street."

Finally, one student walked across. He wore dark sunglasses and carried a poster-board sign, made moments earlier. It read: "These People are Idiots." He stood with the protesters, his sign mocking them, while he listened to an iPod.

Millam rested the megaphone on his stomach. His voice was getting hoarse, and his legs ached. He'd been shouting for almost two hours now, and some protesters were beginning to leave. "Where is Obama?" he asked. Another demonstrator told him that the president had finished his speech, entering and exiting the arena through a different entrance, and Millam snorted in disgust.

"Why does the president of the United States have to sneak in the back door to avoid seeing the real people in this country?" he shouted into the megaphone. "That's not right. That's just not right."

His words died out. The rally was over. He turned off the megaphone and walked to his car. While the president flew back to Washington, Millam drove home on the rural highways of Iowa. He wondered: What would it take to be heard, and what would he try next?

He carried the sign and megaphone into the house and stored them in the closet, knowing he would use them again.

<       2

© 2010 The Washington Post Company