Supreme Court Upholds ADA for a 3rd Time

The Supreme Court on Thursday tossed out a closely watched legal battle targeting the Affordable Care Act, rescuing the landmark health care law from the latest efforts by Republican-led states to dismantle it.

The court ruled 7-2 that the red states and two individuals who brought the dispute do not have the legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate to buy health insurance and ordered the case to be dismissed.

Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented. Justice Stephen Breyer delivered the majority opinion for the court.

As originally enacted in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required most Americans to obtain minimum essential health insurance coverage. The Act also imposed a monetary penalty, scaled according to in- come, upon individuals who failed to do so. In 2017, Con- gress effectively nullified the penalty by setting its amount at $0. See Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Pub. L. 115–97, §11081, 131 Stat. 2092 (codified in 26 U. S. C. §5000A(c)).

Texas and 17 other States brought this lawsuit against the United States and federal officials. They were later joined by two individuals (Neill Hurley and John Nantz). The plaintiffs claim that without the penalty the Act’s min- imum essential coverage requirement is unconstitutional.  The court concluded they had no standing. 

To read detail of the ruling visit

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-840_6jfm.pdf

Thursday’s 7-2 ruling was the third time the court has rebuffed major GOP challenges to former President Barack Obama’s prized health care overhaul. Stingingly for Republicans, the decision emerged from a bench dominated 6-3 by conservative-leaning justices, including three appointed by President Donald Trump.

“The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land,” President Joe Biden said, using the statute’s more formal name, after the court ruled that Texas and other GOP-led states had no right to bring their lawsuit to federal court.

At the time of printing no statement has been released by the New Mexico Republican Party concerning the ruling. 

The lawsuit, initially fashioned as Texas v. United States, was filed in February 2018 by 20 Republican state attorneys general and Republican governors. The plaintiffs wanted to revisit National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius (NFIB), where the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, upheld the mandate as constitutional. In that decision from 2012, Chief Justice Roberts construed the mandate as a tax, concluding that it was valid under Congress’s authority to tax and spend.

The challenge in Texas is related. The plaintiffs argued that the individual mandate is unconstitutional after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, in which Congress set the penalty for not purchasing “minimum essential coverage” coverage to $0. That bill was adopted in December 2017 using the budget reconciliation process after Congress repeatedly tried and failed to repeal the ACA throughout 2017. Without the penalty, the plaintiffs argued, the mandate is unconstitutional. They further argued that the mandate is so essential to the ACA that it cannot be severed from the rest of the law, meaning the entire ACA should be struck down. At a minimum, they asked the court to strike down the law’s guaranteed issue and community rating provisions alongside the mandate.

The state plaintiffs were later joined by two individual plaintiffs who live in Texas and purchased unsubsidized marketplace coverage. These individuals objected to having to comply with the mandate but intended to purchase ACA-compliant coverage in 2019, even after the penalty was set to $0, because they wanted to follow the law. The individual plaintiffs were likely added to the lawsuit to bolster the states’ weak standing argument in the lawsuit—which we now know was to no avail.

Democratic state attorneys general from (initially) 16 states and the District of Columbia—led by then-California Attorney General (and now Department of Health and Human Services Secretary) Xavier Becerra—were allowed to intervene in the case to defend the ACA. These states sought to protect their interests in billions of dollars in federal funding under the ACA, to ensure that their residents have access to health care, and to prevent chaos in their health care systems if the ACA was found to be unconstitutional.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) partially agreedwith the plaintiffs and declined to defend the constitutionality of the mandate and other key ACA provisions. This was a highly unusual position: historically, the DOJ has defended federal statutes where a reasonable argument could be made in their defense. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed Congress of the DOJ’s position that the mandate was unconstitutional and that the ACA’s provisions on guaranteed issue, community rating, preexisting condition exclusions, and discrimination based on health status were inseverable and should also be invalidated. At that point, the DOJ had drawn the line there, arguing that the rest of the ACA was severable and should remain in effect.

In December 2018, Judge O’Connor, a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas, agreed with the plaintiffs and declared the entire ACA to be invalid. He reaffirmed this decision in late December when issuing a stay and partial final judgment. Many of district court’s legal conclusions, from standing to severability, were criticized by conservative legal scholars, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and the National Review editorial board, among others. 

The Fifth Circuit

The DOJ and Democratic attorneys general appealed Judge O’Connor’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Democratic attorneys general from an additional four states and the U.S. House of Representatives were allowed to intervene to defend the ACA while two plaintiff states withdrew from the case. On appeal, the DOJ under then-Attorney General William Barr took the new position that the entire ACA should be declared invalid. From there, the DOJ changed its position twice more, suggesting first that the district court’s decision applied only to the plaintiff states and two individuals, and second that the court’s remedy should be limited only to the provisions that injured the individual plaintiffs.

After oral argument, the Fifth Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, partially affirmed the district court, agreeing that the mandate is now unconstitutional. However, instead of determining what this meant for the rest of the ACA’s provisions, the court remanded the case for additional analysis on the question of severability. One judge disagreed with these conclusions and filed a lengthy dissent arguing that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that, in any event, the mandate remains constitutional and severable from the rest of the ACA. She opined that there was no need to remand, especially on severability.

At The Supreme Court New Mexico Joined The Argument the ACÁ Should Stay Intact

The Democratic attorneys general and the House appealed the Fifth Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court. They initially asked for expedited review, which was denied. However, the Court agreed to hear the appeal on a non-expedited basis and also granted a conditional cross-petition filed by Texas, which asked the Court to uphold the district court’s decision. By granting both petitions, the Court considered the full scope of legal issues in Texas—from whether the plaintiffs have standing to whether the rest of the law could be severed from the individual mandate.

During the briefing and oral argument, 18 Republican attorneys general and governors, two individuals, and the Trump administration argued against the validity of the ACA, which was defended by 21 Democratic attorneys general and the House. The 18 challenger states were Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. The 21 intervenor states were California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington. Republican attorneys general in Montana and Ohio were not parties to the case but filed an amicus briefarguing that the mandate is unconstitutional but severable from the rest of the ACA. And a bipartisan group of governors from Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin filed a separate brief arguing that the ACA should be upheld. All but four states took a formal position in the lawsuit.

Briefing was completed in mid-August, and all filings are available here. Prior posts analyzed opening briefs from California and the House; amicus briefs from nearly 40 health care and other stakeholders; opening briefs from Texas, two individuals, and the Trump administration; amicus briefs from six organizations; reply briefsfrom California and the House; and reply briefsfrom Texas and the two individuals.

Oral Argument

Oral argument was held on November 10, 2020 by the full panel of judges, including then-newly seated Justice Amy Coney Barrett whom President Trump nominated after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (The Texas litigation and oral argument loomed large over Justice Barrett’s confirmation process in the Senate.) All three core issues of the litigation were discussed during oral argument: whether the plaintiffs had standing to sue, the continued constitutionality (or not) of the individual mandate, and whether the rest of the ACA could be severed if the mandate is unconstitutional.

As discussed here, much of the oral argument focused on standing. Many Justices seemed troubled that the penalty-less mandate could not be enforced against the plaintiffs and that invalidation of the mandate alone would not address their alleged injuries. Many also raised concerns about the “standing through inseverability” theory advanced by the plaintiffs and DOJ. These topics were key in the Court’s ultimate decision, discussed below.

Post-Oral Argument

Following the 2020 election, the Biden administration formally changed its position in the litigation. In early February, DOJ submitted a letter to inform the Court that it had reconsidered its position and no longer adhered to the conclusions in previously filed briefs. Upon reconsideration, DOJ’s new position was that the individual mandate, even with a $0 penalty, remained constitutional: The 2017 amendment to the ACA to reduce the penalty to zero “did not convert [the mandate] from a provision affording a constitutional choice into an unconstitutional mandate to maintain insurance.” DOJ’s argument echoed the briefs filed by California and the Housebut did not address standing at all.

It is worth noting that Congress enacted the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. This new law expanded upon the ACA by temporarily enhancing marketplace subsidies for lower- and middle-income people through 2022. To the extent that the Court looked to subsequent congressional action, this would have showed that the current Congress believed the ACA remained sound and constitutional. 

New Mexico Health and Human Services Department estimated that over $1.7 billion in federal funding was at risk because if the Medicaid expansion went away, then that would have away too, and so underpinning all of the ACÁ is not just the coverage that people have. It’s also the money that comes into New Mexico from the Federal system.

There was also concern about people with preexisting conditions, which is a protection under the Affordable Care Act that prevents insurers from discriminating against those who have them. If it had been overturned those protections would have also gone away.

Yet serious problems remain.

Nearly 29 million Americans remained uninsured in 2019, and millions more likely lost coverage at least temporarily when the COVID-19 pandemic hit according to the Kaiser Foundation. In addition, medical costs continue to rise and even many covered by the law find their premiums and deductibles difficult to afford as inflation rises.

In response, Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package enacted in March expanded federal subsidies for health insurance premiums for those buying coverage. His infrastructure and jobs proposal being negotiated in Congress includes $200 billion toward making that permanent, instead of expiring in two years.

But his plan includes none of his more controversial campaign trail proposals to expand health care access, like creating a federally funded public health care option or letting Medicare directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. While those proposals are popular with Democratic voters, they face tough odds in a closely divided Congress.

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Alamogordo Town News History Lesson Flag Day, Flag Code and Old Glory by Author Chris Edwards

Bernard Cigrand, a small-town Wisconsin teacher, originated the idea for an annual flag day, to be celebrated across the country every June 14, in 1885. That year, he led his school in the first formal observance of the holiday. Cigrand, who later changed careers and practiced dentistry in Illinois, continued to promote his concept and advocate respect for the flag throughout his life.

But prior to that when the American Revolutionbroke out in 1775, the colonists weren’t fighting united under a single flag. Instead, most regiments participating in the war for independence against the British fought under their own flags. In June of 1775, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to create the Continental Army—a unified colonial fighting force—with the hopes of more organized battle against its colonial oppressors. This led to the creation of what was, essentially, the first “American” flag, the Continental Colors.

For some, this flag, which was comprised of 13 red and white alternating stripes and a Union Jack in the corner, was too similar to that of the British. George Washington soon realized that flying a flag that was even remotely close to the British flag was not a great confidence-builder for the revolutionary effort, so he turned his efforts towards creating a new symbol of freedom for the soon-to-be fledgling nation.

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress took a break from writing the Articles of Confederation and passed a resolution stating that “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white,” and that “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

In response to the petition, Congress passed the Flag Act of 1777. It reads in the Journals of the Continental Congress:

Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

The date commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. The flag was called the Flag Resolution of 1777 and was the first of many iterations of what would become the American flag we recognize today.

Betsy Ross Didn’t Design the Original Flag

Betsy Ross, born Elizabeth Phoebe Griscom, is widely credited with making the first modern American flag in 1776. Folklore states it occurred after General George Washington visited her home at 239 Arch Street in Philadelphia. Ross was the wife of John Ross, a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Militia. John was killed in the early stages of the war. What is known is that Betsy Ross worked in upholstery and helped war efforts by making tents and blankets.

The story of Ross and her presenting the American flag to Washington after he gave her a sketch of what he wanted didn’t become part of “history” until 1876 at Centennial celebrations of the American Revolution. Around that year Ross’s grandson, William J. Canby, wrote a research paper for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania claiming that his grandmother had made the first American flag.

The real designer of the American flag was Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the the Declaration of Independence as a delegate from New Jersey. Hopkinson was the Chairman of the Continental Navy Board’s Middle Department and also designed a flag for them around 1777, too.

Hopkinson was the only person to make the claim of inventing the American flag in his lifetime until the Betsy Ross apocrypha surfaced a hundred years later. Substantiating Hopkinson’s claims are preserved bills he sent to Congress for his work.

According to the United States Flag Organization:

Apparently acting on a request from Congress, Hopkinson sent a detailed bill on June 6th, and it was sent to the auditor general, James Milligan. He sent it to the commissioners of the Chamber of Accounts, who replied six days later on June 12th that they were of the opinion that the charges were reasonable and ought to be paid.

Flag Day itself was first established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. Wilson was also the first president to recognize Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, the latter of which is this Sunday. However, Flag Day didn’t officially become established until 1949 by an act of Congress.

Flag Day is not unique to the United States and many countries have specific flag days. Dates of flag days vary across the world, but most dates were chosen to mark a significant national event like an independence day, a declaration of independence, an important military victory, the creation of the flag, or something similar to our Armed Forces Day.

Prior to Flag Day, June 14, 1923, neither the federal government nor the states had official guidelines governing the display of the United States’ flag. On that date, the National Flag Code was constructed by representatives of over 68 organizations, under the auspices of the National Americanism Commission of the American Legion. The code drafted by that conference was printed by the national organization of the American Legion and given nationwide distribution.

On June 22, 1942, the code became Public Law 77-623; chapter 435. Little had changed in the code since the Flag Day 1923 Conference. The most notable change was the removal of the Bellamy salutedue to its similarities to the Hitler salute.

The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 prohibits real estate management organizations from restricting homeowners from displaying the Flag of the United States on their own property.

The Army Specialist Greg L. Chambers Federal Flag Code Amendment Act of 2007 added a provision to allow governors, or the mayor of the District of Columbia, to proclaim that the flag be flown at half-staff upon the death of a member of the Armed Forces from any State, territory, or possession who died while serving on active duty. The provision directs federal facilities in the area covered by the governor or mayor of the District of Columbia to fly the flag at half-staff consistent with such proclamations.

The Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (Sec. 595.)allows the military salute for the flag during the national anthem by members of the Armed Forces not in uniform and by veterans.

And how it was to become named Old Glory

Old Glory!”

This famous name was coined by Captain William Driver, ship master of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1831. As he was leaving on one of his many voyages aboard the brig Charles Doggett friends presented him with a beautiful American flag of twenty four stars. As the banner opened to the ocean breeze for the first time, he exclaimed “Old Glory!” (This voyage would climax with the rescue of the mutineers of the Bounty).

Captain Driver retired to Nashville in 1837, taking his treasured American flag from his sea days with him. By the time the Civil War erupted, most everyone in and around Nashville recognized Captain Driver’s “Old Glory.” When Tennessee seceded from the Union, Rebels were determined to destroy his flag, but repeated searches revealed no trace of the hated banner.

Then on February 25th, 1862, Union forces captured Nashville and raised the American flag over the capital. It was a rather small ensign and immediately folks began asking Captain Driver if “Old Glory” still existed. Happy to have soldiers with him this time, Captain Driver went home and began ripping at the seams of his bed cover. As the stitches holding the quilt-top to the batting unraveled, the onlookers peered inside and saw the 24-starred original “Old Glory”!

Captain Driver gently gathered up the flag and returned with the soldiers to the capitol. Though he was sixty years old, the Captain climbed up to the tower to replace the smaller banner with his beloved flag. The Sixth Ohio Regiment cheered and saluted – and later adopted the nickname “Old Glory” as their own, telling and re-telling the story of Captain Driver’s devotion to the flag we still honor today.

Captain Driver’s grave is located in the old Nashville City Cemetery and is one of three (3) places authorized by act of Congress where the Flag of the United States may be flown 24 hours a day.

A caption above a faded black and white picture in the book, The Stars and the Stripes, states that ‘Old Glory’ may no longer be opened to be photographed, and no color photograph is available.” Visible in the photo in the lower right corner of the canton is an applique anchor, Captain Driver’s very personal note. “Old Glory” is the most illustrious of a number of flags – both Northern and Confederate – reputed to have been similarly hidden, then later revealed as times changed. The flag was given to his granddaughter or niece who later donated it to the Smithsonian.

So on this flag day rather you are celebrating in Alamogordo, Nashville or the beaches of California, let us remember no party and no ideology owns the American flag. The American flag is the people’s flag with a long history that is a twist of tales and reverence. 

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Bill Swartz Crossing America for Charity Stops By Roadrunner Emporium & Fine Arts Gallery, 928 New York Avenue, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Dateline: Alamogordo, New Mexico, June 8, 2021

In case you missed the jovial guy on a bike zipping around Alamogordo yesterday, you missed a man of commitment and compassion.

Meet Mike Swartz. While some people have sat back and complained during this dark period of Covid-19 and the new awakening as we come out of it, there are some individuals that didn’t just sit back in self pity but some individuals set a goal and a path forward to help the greater good of their community and followed through on that path forward in enlightenment and action.A view of Bill Swartz journey 

Mike Swartz is one of those individuals. He is bicycling across America from Harbor New Jersey to San Diego to raise awareness and funds for charity.  His solo ride of about 4000 miles in total down the east coast and across the country is to raise money for Bell Socialization Services which began in 1966 as “The Bell Club,” a social gathering for people being discharged from local psychiatric hospitals into the greater York, PA community.  Created with support of the York chapter of Mental Health America and a financial donation from the York Jaycees, early Bell programs included meals and activities hosted by churches and organizations such as the Catholic Women’s Club, the Jewish War Veteran’s Auxilliary, the Jaycees Wives, etc., as well as dances, presentations, and outings.

The organization then engaged to enrich mental health services, in 1977, programs were also added to assist individuals with intellectual disabilities , and in 1986, the agency added shelter services to meet the needs of York County’s homeless families.

Over the years Bell services continued to evolve and expand and, today, about 2,500 people are served each year through dozens of programs offering an array of housing and basic living supports, guided by our Vision, Mission, & Values. Many Bell programs are licensed and/or accredited to meet strict standards of quality care. With more than 50 properties throughout York and Adams counties, people using Bell services are an integral part of the greater community.

You can follow along the remaining parts of Mr. Swartz journey and read his commentary and blog over his encounters along the way ata variety of social media pages which are  devoted to this bicycle ride. ‍ You’ll see photos, video clips and stories about my experiences and the interesting folks I meet as I bicycle across America.
* FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/coasttocoastbicycleride/
* INSTAGRAM: @billswartz3
* WEBSITE for this COASTtoCOASTbicycleride: www.thisclearbluesky.com

We were fortunate to meet this jovial man at Roadrunner Emporium on New York Avenue yesterday. He explained his journey and his passion and moved us with his experiences.

Mr Swartz said he was attracted to the street and to come into Roadrunner Emporium as he heard John a Lennon’s famous “Imagine” being coming from the Emporium and he knew from that inspiring sound he had to check out the Emporium and the historic New York Avenue. Proving once again “music unites us.”Artist Dalia Lopez Halloway and Author Chris Edwards Photographed by Bill Swartz on His Journey

His journey reminds us all that there are good people out there, not just sitting back but taking action from the darkness to bring light to causes and issues that are important to the community and the nation at large.

Humanity is out there if we just keep our eyes open and look for it. Good luck Mr. Swartz.

And to make a donation to the charity follow the link attached:

https://gofund.me/5b660142

To learn more about the charity he is supporting visit:

https://bellsocialization.com/aboutbell/

To see a FOX News Clip on his journey visit The Fox 43 TV news  affiliates video clip that gives a good overview of this coast to coast bicycle ride fundraiser and the charity for which I’m riding:

https://www.fox43.com/mobile/article/news/local/york-county-man-biking-across-the-country-to-raise-money-for-bell-socialization/521-0da649dc-48bb-4053-a4c2-7dde9b59e747?fbclid=IwAR2XGpbTP1JN_RCTKU3wJLQ2VorxOqTvSRc3x8EIwn98XCMLIuTqHD9Q6

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Softening of America A Commentary By John F Kennedy Revisited 60 Years Later 4/2/2021

While doing research on a book I am writing on a New Mexico Track and Field Coach Bob Robert Sepulveda I came across this amazing take on physical fitness by President JFK. Quite a different approach to what we see today. I wonder if we as citizens truly embraced what president Kennedy embraces below if the national crises Covid-19 would be so severe or would our diabetes and obesity issues be less and us a healthier and happier nation? Maybe the softening of America’s youth he refers to then is a wake up call for now to become more physically active and to embrace fitness…

On Dec. 26, 1960, President-elect John F. Kennedy penned a piece for Sports Illustrated touting the importance of “physical soundness” for Americans — for kids and grown-ups alike. A precursor to today’s America’s Great Outdoor Initiative, which encourages families to get outdoors, it hit the outdoor nail on the proverbial head. Read on to see The Soft American in its entirety…

The Soft American
By President-elect John F. Kennedy

Beginning more than 2,500 years ago, from all quarters of the Greek world men thronged every four years to the sacred grove of Olympia, under the shadow of Mount Cronus, to compete in the most famous athletic contests of history—the Olympian games.

During the contest a sacred truce was observed among all the states of Greece as the best athletes of the Western world competed in boxing and foot races, wrestling and chariot races for the wreath of wild olive which was the prize of victory. When the winners returned to their home cities to lay the Olympian crown in the chief temples they were greeted as heroes and received rich rewards. For the Greeks prized physical excellence and athletic skills among man’s greatest goals and among the prime foundations of a vigorous state.

Thus the same civilizations which produced some of our highest achievements of philosophy and drama, government and art, also gave us a belief in the importance of physical soundness which has become a part of Western tradition; from the mens sana in corpore sano of the Romans to the British belief that the playing fields of Eaton brought victory on the battlefields of Europe. This knowledge, the knowledge that the physical well-being of the citizen is an important foundation for the vigor and vitality of all the activities of the nation, is as old as Western civilization itself. But it is a knowledge which today, in American, we are in danger of forgetting.

The first indication of a decline in the physical strength and ability of young Americans became apparent among United States soldiers in the early stages of the Korean War. The second came when figures were released showing that almost one out of every two young American was being rejected by Selective Service as mentally, morally or physically unfit. But the most startling demonstration of the general physical decline of American youth came when Dr. Hans Kraus and Dr. Sonja Weber revealed the results of 15 years of research centering in the Posture Clinic of New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital—results of physical fitness tests given to 4,264 children in this country and 2,870 children in Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

The findings showed that despite our unparalleled standard of living, despite our good food and our many playgrounds, despite our emphasis on school athletics, American youth lagged far behind Europeans in physical fitness. Six tests for muscular strength and flexibility were given; 57.9% of the American children failed one or more of these tests, while only 8.7% of the European youngsters failed.

A Consistent Decline

Especially disheartening were the results of the five strength tests: 35.7% of American children failed one or more of these, while only 1.1% of the Europeans failed, and among Austrian and Swiss youth the rate of failure was as low as .5%.

As a result of the alarming Kraus-Weber findings President Eisenhower created a Council on Youth Fitness at the Cabinet level and appointed a Citizens Advisory Committee on the Fitness of American Youth, composed of prominent citizens interested in fitness. Over the past five years the physical fitness of American youth has been discussed in forums, by committees and in leading publications. A 10-point program for physical fitness has been publicized and promoted. Our schools have been urged to give increased attention to the physical well-being of their students. Yet there has been no noticeable improvement. Physical fitness tests conducted last year in Britain and Japan showed that the youth of those countries were considerably more fit than our own children. And the annual physical fitness tests for freshman at Yale University show a consistent decline in the prowess of young American; 51& of the class of 1951 passed the tests, 43% of the class of 1956 passed, and only 38%, a little more than a third, of the class of 1960 succeeded, in passing the not overly rigorous examination.

Of course, physical tests are not infallible. They can distort the true health picture. There are undoubtedly many American youths and adults whose physical fitness matches and exceeds the best of other lands.

But the harsh fact of the matter is that there is also an increasingly large number of young Americans who are neglecting their bodies—whose physical fitness is not what it should be—who are getting soft. And such softness on the part of individual citizens can help to strip and destroy the vitality of a nation.

For the physical vigor of our citizens is one of America’s most precious resources. If we waste and neglect this resource, if we allow it to dwindle and grow soft then we will destroy much of our ability to meet the great and vital challenges which confront our people. We will be unable to realize our full potential as a nation.

Throughout our history we have been challenged to armed conflict by nations which sought to destroy our independence or threatened our freedom. The young men of America have risen to those occasions, giving themselves freely to the rigors and hardships of warfare. But the stamina and strength which the defense of liberty requires are not the product of a few weeks’ basic training or a month’s conditioning. These only come from bodies which have been conditioned by a lifetime of participation in sports and interest in physical activity. Our struggles against aggressors throughout our history have been won on the playgrounds and corner lots and fields of America.

Thus, in a very real and immediate sense, our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security.

However, we do not, like the ancient Spartans, wish to train the bodies of our youth to make them more effective warriors. It is our profound hope and expectation that Americans will never again have to expend their strength in armed conflict.

But physical fitness is as vital to the activities of peace as to those of war, especially when our success in those activities may well determine the future of freedom in the years to come. We face in the Soviet Union a powerful and implacable adversary determined to show the world that only the Communist system possesses the vigor and determination necessary to satisfy awakening aspirations for progress and the elimination of poverty and want. To meet the challenge of this enemy will require determination and will and effort on the part of all American. Only if our citizens are physically fit will they be fully capable of such an effort.

For physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. The relationship between the soundness of the body and the activities of the mind is subtle and complex. Much is not yet understood. But we do know what the Greeks knew: that intelligence and skill can only function at the peak of their capacity when the body is healthy and strong; that hardy spirits and tough minds usually inhabit sound bodies.

In this sense, physical fitness is the basis of all the activities of our society. And if our bodies grow soft and inactive, if we fail to encourage physical development and prowess, we will undermine our capacity for thought, for work and for the use of those skills vital to an expanding and complex America.

Thus the physical fitness of our citizens is a vital prerequisite to America’s realization of its full potential as a nation, and to the opportunity of each individual citizen to make full and fruitful use of his capacities.

It is ironic that at a time when the magnitude of our dangers makes the physical fitness of our citizens a matter of increasing importance, it takes greater effort and determination than ever before to build the strength of our bodies. The age of leisure and abundance can destroy vigor and muscle tone as effortlessly as it can gain time. Today human activity, the labor of the human body, is rapidly being engineered out of working life. By the 1970’s, according to many economists, the man who works with his hands will be almost extinct.

Many of the routine physical activities which earlier Americans took for granted are no longer part of our daily life. A single look at the packed parking lot of the average high school will tell us what has happened to the traditional hike to school that helped to build young bodies. The television set, the movies and the myriad conveniences and distractions of modern life all lure our young people away from the strenuous physical activity that is the basis of fitness in youth and in later life.

Now is the Time

Of course, modern advances and increasing leisure can add greatly to the comfort and enjoyment of life. But they must not be confused with indolence, with, in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “slothful-ease,” with an increasing deterioration of our physical strength. For the strength of our youth and the fitness of our adults are among our most important assets, and this growing decline is a matter of urgent concern to thoughtful Americans.

This is a national problem, and requires national action. President Eisenhower helped show the way through his own interest and by calling national attention to our deteriorating standards of physical fitness. Now it is time for the United States to move forward with a national program to improve the fitness of all Americans.

First: We must establish a White House /Committee on Health and Fitness to formulate and carry out a program to improve the physical condition of the nation. This committee will include the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and the Secretary of the Interior. The executive order creating this committee will clearly state its purpose, and coordinate its activities with the many federal programs which bear a direct relation to the problem of physical fitness.

Second: The physical fitness of our youth should be made a direct responsibility of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. This department should conduct—through its Office of Education and the National Institutes of Health—research into the development of a physical fitness program for the nation’s public schools. The results of this research shall be made freely available to all who are interested. In addition, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare should use all its existing facilities to attach the lack of youth fitness as a major health problem.

Third: The governor of each state will be invited to attend the annual National Youth Fitness Congress. This congress will examine the progress which has been made in physical fitness during the preceding year, exchange suggestions for improving existing programs and provide an opportunity to encourage the states to implement the physical fitness program drawn up by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Our states are anxious to participate in such programs, to make sure that their youth have the opportunity for full development of their bodies as well as their minds.

Fourth: The President and all departments of government must make it clearly understood that the promotion of sports participation and physical fitness is a basic and continuing policy of the United States. By providing such leadership, by keeping physical fitness in the forefront of the nation’s concerns, the federal government can make a substantial contribution toward improving the health and vigor of our citizens.

But no matter how vigorous the leadership of government, we can fully restore the physical soundness of our nation only if every American is willing to assume responsibility for his own fitness and the fitness of his children. We do not live in a regimented society where men are forced to live their lives in the interest of the state. We are, all of us, as free to direct the activities of our bodies as we are to pursue the objects of our thought. But if we are to retain this freedom, for ourselves and for generations to come, then we must also be willing to work for the physical toughness on which the courage and intelligence and skill of man so largely depend.

All of us must consider our own responsibilities for the physical vigor of our children and of the young men and women of our community. We do not want our children to become a generation of spectators. Rather, we want each of them to be a participant in the vigorous life.