On Monday, Oct. 2, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed arrived at Kalamazoo College’s Stetson Chapel. About 30 people, ranging from first-year students to retirees and staff, gathered in a semicircle in front of the chapel to listen and ask questions as he spoke from the steps. He began by talking about his background — his father’s emigration from Egypt to Detroit, looking for a life of opportunity; his childhood memories of his diversely opinionated Muslim, Presbyterian, and atheist family members coming together in love for Thanksgiving; and his decision to study biology and politics at the University of Michigan with the dream of going into public health. From there, he received a doctorate from Oxford and got his medical degree from Columbia University.
El-Sayed recounted his experiences from working as the Executive Director of the Detroit Health Department. Motivated by the sights of first grade kids wearing coats in schools without proper heating and gym floors collapsing from mold, El-Sayed and his team tested 360 schools in six months. The subsequent protocol created in Detroit is a national model for the National Association of City and County Health Officials.
In addition to health, much of his speech focused on education, touching on the state of education in Michigan. “When I graduated from my public high school,” El-Sayed said, “we as a state were in the top ten nationwide when it came to educational achievement. Today, Michigan’s schools are number 50 out of 50 when it comes to educational improvements in the past eight years.”
Asked about his policy on healthcare, El-Sayed criticized the United State’s lack of universal access to health care, a policy that is out of line with every other high-income country. Recalling the memory of a time he had to give a patient a diagnosis of a disease that was life-threatening, He reflected that, “the worst day in the coming months was not going to be the day I told them they had a potentially life-threatening disease. It was the day they were going to figure out how much it was going to cost their families.”
El-Sayed cited the fact that the US spends 19 cents on the dollar in our economy on healthcare, compared with 11 cents on the dollar in Canada — and seven percent of the population is without healthcare. El-Sayed said he supports the Medicare for All bill put forward by Bernie Sanders, and that he would aim to implement a single-payer plan in Michigan, if elected.
Sharing his thoughts on immigration, El-Sayed stated that he will propose to make Michigan a sanctuary state; he supported that point as being a constitutional state right, as well as meaning that taxpayer dollars would not be expended on federal policy that will tear apart Michigan families.
At the end of his speech, El-Sayed returned to thoughts of his family and referring to their ability to come together despite their differences. “They were united by something that was way bigger than their differences, and that was their shared future,” he said.