COVID-19, Healthcare, and American Identity (Part III)

The Henry Clay Center reached out to program alumni for their perspectives on COVID-19 and how it has impacted their communities and outlook on current events. Their responses offer a unique range of political opinions that reflect the diversity of thought among the Center’s alumni and the greater American public. This series pairs student op-eds that share a similar theme but diverge in opinion. The Henry Clay Center then offers its analysis of the two opinion pieces, identifying areas of agreement and opportunities for mutual understanding. Please be advised that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the Henry Clay Center or the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.

HCCS Comparative Analysis of Identity
By Alison Griffith


A review of the two opinion pieces on the impact of COVID-19 by alumni of the Henry Clay Center Student Congresses reveals introspective analyses of identity. The authors present clear, yet distinct, perspectives of American identity grounded in fact and personal beliefs by assessing COVID-19’s impact on opportunity, values, and access to healthcare.

In common expression, America is described as the land of opportunity. Opportunity, however, is a relative concept. According to Ms. Jones, modern American culture has produced educated, successful individuals based on common goals of productivity and ambition, regardless of age, location, or occupation. Conversely, Mr. Bevis emphasizes systemic and institutionalized racism that dramatically limits a group of individuals’ abilities to realize their potential. When defining policies for a nation, especially one as diverse as the United States, it is essential to acknowledge the complete scope of lives impacted and incorporate those perspectives into the discussion.

Similarly, values exist on a subjective spectrum and determine the importance of one thing over another based on individual beliefs. Ms. Jones identifies a cyclical occurrence in American values as a result of the global pandemic. She proposes that isolation creates space for self-reflection which in turn increases society’s appreciation of culture, arts, and religion. She concludes that the emergent values will determine new policies. From a different lens, Mr. Bevis addresses a gap in American values that stigmatize groups based on race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. He argues the pandemic intensifies the discrimination vulnerable populations already face and sees government action as the vehicle for change. Notable in both texts is the awareness that values can change over time and the relationship between values and policy development. Thus, key to the policy conversation is awareness of the values and beliefs of the opposing position and a willingness to collaborate on areas of mutual interest.

Lastly, both texts condemn insufficient access to healthcare in the United States. Ms. Jones identifies the system’s shortcomings and calls for universal access for all Americans in a march for equity among the people. She caveats her rallying cry with attention to the realities of fiscal and bureaucratic limitations. Ms. Jones recognizes the challenges and flaws of the nation but holds faith in societal commitment to America’s founding principles. Mr. Bevis, on the other hand, attacks the inequities of access with steadfast determination to change the system. Citing compounding factors and a history of poor policymaking, he pinpoints the triggers and offers solutions to the most egregious challenges. Mr. Bevis squarely assigns responsibility for change in the authority of the government. The urgency of addressing access to healthcare is palpable in both Ms. Jones and Mr. Bevis’ pieces. This concern echoes in public discussion and will continue to top local, regional, and national dialogues until lawmakers start identifying shared goals and working together toward small successes.

While divergent in identifying the vehicles that created America’s current societal dynamics, Ms. Jones and Mr. Bevis agree that the nation finds itself in a volatile state and requires thoughtful, dedicated action to right America’s course. At the Henry Clay Center, we encourage spirited debate and the expression of divergent views to gain greater knowledge. Determining sustainable solutions and proceeding with successful policies demands acknowledging the perspective of the other. Identifying areas of commonality leads to seeds of engagement and collaboration. A willingness to listen opens minds to possibilities and the spirit of compromise keeps progress in motion.

Alison Griffith is the Director of National Outreach at the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship.