Saturday, August 18, 2012

VP Candidate Paul Ryan talks Medicare at The Villages

Paul Ryan (center) with his mother and Lee Greenwood who introduced him with his famous "Proud to be an American" song this morning in The Villages, FL. Video available at
It was my pleasure to cheer Congressman Paul Ryan as he addressed an enthusiastic audience at "Florida's Favorite Hometown", the retirement community of The Villages, in central Florida, where my wife and I have lived for the past nine years. The banner behind him and in front of the podium said "Protect and Strengthen Medicare" and a good part of Ryan's talk had to do with that topic.

He introduced his mother, a snowbird who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and he reminded us that the Romney/Ryan plan would not affect current recipients nor anyone 55 years of age or older, which, at a show of hands, included at least 80% of the crowd. He said that President Obama had taken $716 billion out of the Medicare trust fund and that could cause one in six hospitals and nursing homes to close. In contrast, he said, the Romney/Ryan plan would save the program for those at or near the eligibility age, and strenghten it for the next generations by offering choices based on competition between private plans and the government plan.

A video of his complete talk is available at:

Just to be sure both sides of the Medicare issue were represented, a yellow airplane flew over and around the square pulling a sign that said: "PAUL RYAN: HANDS OFF OUR MEDICARE!"

Also see this ABC News report on Ryan's talk that includes a contrary view of the $716 billion dollar Medicare cuts:

As we say down here "It's a beautiful day in The Villages" and this day was no exception. My friend Jerry and I arrived via golf cart and passed through the airport-like security cordon without much delay into Lake Sumter Market Square where Lee Greenwood was entertaining the crowd. We found a good standing position on a raised wooden platform about 100 feet from the podium. We enjoyed several more songs and then we heard from some local politicos.

From where we were standing we had a good view of the building Ryan and his party would exit to get to the square. Security and coordination people walked between the square and that building and then we saw Ryan, in a dark blue shirt, standing at the ready with his mother, in bright yellow, and other dignitaries. Then we saw them cross the street to the square and out of our view.

I noticed "Campaign Carl" Cameron to the left of the podium broadcasting to his Fox News audience. Then Greenwood sang his famous and very moving "Proud to be an American" song and introduced Ryan and his mother to lots of good-natured cheers. (See the video at

I found Ryan's talk very well done, and even better than the talk I saw Mitt Romney give here in the same square back in 2008 during the GOP primaries that he lost to Sen. McCain. At that time, the crowds were smaller and security more relaxed and I had the priviledge of shaking hands with Romney after his talk. My wife and I also attended the talk given by VP candidate Sarah Palin in our square in 2008. Although we arrived hours early, over 40,000 other people showed up and we couldn't get into the specially secure area of the square that afforded a direct view and had to watch the proceedings on large "Jumbotron" TV displays set up around the square.

By contrast, we arrived for Ryan's appearance less than an hour before he gave it and were able to get into the standing room only part of the secure area. Thousands of others, who brought folding chairs which were not allowed in the secure area, chose to watch via "Jumbotron" on the streets around the square. Of course, the "Jumbotron" view is much clearer and better than the direct live view, and sitting is much better than standing for an hour, but, by some strange quirk of human psychology, a direct view is preferred.

At one point, near the beginning of his talk, Ryan noticed that someone had a medical emergency and he interrupted his talk to be sure the medics were on the way. Given the August heat, and the fact that residents of The Villages are beyond retirement age, medics are always at the ready. Later in Ryan's talk I saw a woman in a stretcher being whisked out of the secure area.

The crowds were very polite and supportive, with absolutely no pushing to get the best view. We did crowd together, and sometimes a standing supporter waving a sign did block the view, but it was all done in a festive spirit.

After the talk was over, a light rain began to fall. We sauntered out of the secure area, along with over a thousand others, which took some time given that we are mostly retirees and some of us have trouble walking. We remembered where we parked my golf cart and followed the traffic through happy people walking to their carts and cars in the light drizzle, and, with a minimum of delay, got back home in good humor.

All in all, a great way to spend part of a Saturday morning.

Ira Glickstein

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