From the H1N1 Flu Preparedness summit at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.–
I can say one thing about President Obama, he knows how to work a room, even when he’s not physically present. He surprised the crowd at an H1N1 flu preparedness summit at NIH by calling in live from Italy. When Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius announced that a “special guest” would be phoning in with some remarks, and said who it was, the aura of anticipation in the room was like that of the children waiting for Santa to pass by at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. There were a few minutes of delay for the phone to get through (probably layers of security) and from where I sat there was a charge in the air (disclosure: yes, I voted for him) but Secretary Sebelius stayed on task and introduced the other panelists.
The president didn’t speak for too long, but the fact that he called in at all was both telling and impressive. The summit speakers emphasized the need for preparedness and collaboration. The president has many demands on his time, but I think that by making it a priority to call in and thank all the participants for being on top of the H1N1 situation, and to encourage them in their efforts to keep people safe and healthy, he gave the impression that the government wants to work with the medical community.
“We want to make sure that we are not promoting panic, but we are promoting vigilance and preparation,” the president said.
That sounds like a good H1N1 mantra to me. Bumper stickers, anyone?
–Heidi Splete (on Twitter @hsplete)
P.S.: Visit and share the government’s new flu Web site www.flu.gov