More than 100 people jammed an Albany church auditorium to send a clear message to Washington decision makers: Keep your hands off Medicare!
Retired and in-service members, residents of local senior housing and college students filled the room as they listened to calls for action to maintain one of the nation's most important programs.
New York has already taken a hard hit, as the recent federal budget deal cuts Medicare payments to doctors by two percent, creating more difficulties for seniors and their families.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta was the lead speaker, and set the tone for the event.
"We cannot reduce programs like Medicare and make the most vulnerable suffer," Pallotta said, "while most of America's wealth is in the hands of just a few. All of us here must stick together, because together we are a very strong voice."
He told the crowd about the union's upcoming statewide voter registration drive and reminded them: "We must reaffirm our support for this visionary program."
Carolyn McLaughlin, President of the Common Council of the city of Albany, said she is committed to this fight because "I became part of government to be part of something good, like Medicare. Like millions of Americans, she said, "I've been putting a down payment on what I expect to be there for me and for all of us."
"Without Medicare, we start to destroy the fabric of our society," said Albany County Executive Mike Breslin. "It is a critical part of our lives."
Anna Boughtwood, a NYSUT intern and Brown University student, told listeners about her research into Medicare's long history and asked, ""What would happen to all the people Medicare serves, if Medicare didn't exist?"
One federal official who has consistently defended Medicare is Congressman Paul Tonko, whose aide received a certificate of thanks for Tonko's consistent advocacy.
Dennis Tracey, from the Alliance of Retired Americans, MC'ed the event, and thanked the young people, in particular, for attending.
The rally was another in a series of events NYSUT has contributed to this summer in defense of Medicare - from a statewide car caravan to remind some members of Congress about the importance of this issue, to a rally at the Franklin Roosevelt Museum in Hyde Park to celebrate Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, three cornerstones of income security for American families.