Sebelius brings governmental experience to week’s conversation



Kathleen Sebelius has been the facilitator and architect of two livable communities, and she will discuss both of these roles at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.

“She was one of the first people we thought about because of her dual role as governor of Kansas, which is a pretty livable state, and also [as] the secretary of health and human services,” said Sherra Babcock, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.

Despite a flawed rollout for its website, Sebelius championed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare — throughout its implementation in the fall of 2013.

She eventually resigned in April 2014, bearing personal responsibility for the mistake, but she continued to support the program’s success.

The arduous process of the Affordable Care Act — from its early stages in Congress to its eventual introduction through — is an illustration of how livable communities come to be, Babcock said.

Matt Ewalt, associate director for education and youth services, said Sebelius’ efforts in the healthcare debate and Week Nine’s theme, “Creating Livable Communities,” go hand-in-hand.

“She provides, especially someone of her stature and experience, clear connections with the topic of healthcare and the larger topic that we now created with the week,” Ewalt said.

Sebelius, a Democrat, was the elected governor of Kansas in 2002 after serving as a Congresswoman and Kansas insurance commissioner, positions she held for eight years each.

She served two terms as the Kansas governor from 2003 to 2009 until President Barack Obama appointed her as secretary of of health and human services in 2009.

The Affordable Care Act prompted a whirlwind of debate at all levels of government, and those who oppose the law have repeatedly threatened to repeal it. Sebelius’ lecture at Chautauqua won’t focus on the debate, Ewalt said, but the contentious nature of the act could stir conversation about livable communities.

“I think her being here hopefully prompts conversation about what exactly that role of government is in providing for the livable community and what obligation does the government have to fellow community members in terms of providing coverage,” Ewalt said. “This isn’t advocating a particular position or a particular system.”