That Time Elizabeth Warren Reminded Us What Leadership Looks Like

By now you’ve heard of the 21st Century Cures Act. It’s a 996-page healthcare bill that passed through the House and the Senate in a landslide vote of 392-26 and 94-5 respectively. For those of us not following every little movement in Washington, it feels like the first bipartisan supported bill in ages. President Obama has already pledged to sign it into law.

The Capitol & US Senate

Photo: Pixabay

As with any bill of this scale, it’s been the subject of years of negotiation and lobbying. This one’s been up for discussion for over three years now. Needless to say, after years of tug-of-war, the bill has positive and negative elements affecting the everyday citizen. This is Washington after all.

As for the good, the 21st Century Cures Act increases funding to treat the opioid crisis, allocates funds to attract more students to mental health counseling, and supports cancer research. But at the same time it cuts proposed funding for the FDA, gives drug and medical device companies more power than ever before, and permits the marketing of drugs for unapproved uses.

So what does this have to do with leadership?

Let’s jump into a scene from November 28th, 2016.

Elizabeth Warren stands on the Senate floor. The carpet is strikingly blue, looks bluer than normal even, because the chamber is all but empty. There are a few representatives here and there, but not many. Warren takes the podium and begins discussing the Cures Act. She lays out, in no uncertain terms, her disapproval for the creature that the Cures Act has become.

“I cannot vote for this bill,” she says. “I will fight it because I know the difference between compromise and extortion.”

She explains that in her view the compromises demanded by party opposition have turned the bill into a series of noble causes hijacked by big pharma. She calls it “political cover” for huge giveaways to giant drug companies.

Of course, on the practical level, this does not mitigate the positive actions within the bill. There will still be, for example, $1 billion pumped into the state-level economy to address the opioid epidemic. This funding will support the development and enrichment of effective and affordable heroin withdrawal treatment programs and help launch prevention campaigns nationwide. The positive steps set forth in this bill are important, no one argues that, and they will save countless lives in the years to come.

The trouble is that this valuable legislature comes at such a cost.

In some ways, from where we presently stand, the discussion becomes a philosophical one. This is the realm where a powerful leader thrives; it’s a place where a leader can enact change on a deep social level.

When Elizabeth Warren gave her speech in November, it was fairly clear that the bill would pass. But that did not keep her from speaking up and making her concerns known. Without her public statements, the general public could easily be unaware of the unsavory aspects of this bill.

Being a good leader does not always mean your side wins.

A good leader knows how to lose, and knows how to affect change on a level far beyond winning and losing. The best leaders have the big picture in mind, always.

How have leaders in your life affected change?


Author: Brooke Faulkner is a freelance writer and mother of two. Her career ambition is to own a treadmill desk.