Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Healthcare reform is one of many ‘hard choices’

While healthcare reform is getting its share of press these days, it is not the only public policy issue facing the United States.

Hard choices face the nation on many fronts: federal debt, the environment, social welfare and immigration. But politicians are not the only ones debating the merits and pitfalls of each issue. On college campuses around the nation, students also are joining the debates.

Students in DU’s Hard Choices in Public Policy class look at these issues from all sides. Recently, the class discussed healthcare reform.

“Today’s college students are tomorrow’s public policy makers. Being informed about the pressing social and economic challenges and issues of our day is key to constructive change in the future,” says course instructor Richard Lamm, a former Colorado governor, co-director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies and executive director of the Center for Public Policy & Contemporary Issues.

“We look at the same public policy issues that make the headlines every day, and students are encouraged to share their thoughts, opinions and solutions,” Lamm says. Students are learning firsthand about the volatility and delicacy of the issues and the spectrum of alternatives that define the potential solutions, he notes.

Lamm hopes to foster in students a lifetime awareness of public policy.

“Being engaged and active in public policy issues not only drives understanding but drives action,” he says. “I’m a big believer that good decisions result from good discussions, and more Americans need to get involved in the discussion.”

Roman Valencia, a first-year student taking the Hard Choices course, says the class appealed to him because he believes seeing through the eyes of others creates different perspectives and “can lead to greater understanding.”

Valencia says he has learned there are many ways to look at an issue like healthcare reform.

“Each of us brings our own individual perspectives to the table. Whether we are talking healthcare reform or federal debt, we are learning to respect one another.”

Jim Lannon, another first-year student, says he has a keen interest in public policy and has been involved in student government as well as hometown politics.

“I am studying to be an English teacher, but I also know I will continue to be involved in local politics,” he says. “Looking at the issues from all sides is an important part of our classroom debate. While I still have my own opinions, I feel I have a better understanding of the issues and the potential solutions through this class.”

The Hard Choices class is popular with students for a number of reasons — and Lamm is one of them. The author of seven books, Lamm served three terms as Colorado governor. Another reason for the popularity of the class, he says, is today’s political climate.

“Public policy decisions have a profound effect on communities, and being informed is the best action a citizen can take,” Lamm says.

Lamm, who began teaching at DU in 1969 and has been teaching public policy since 1987, says he was drawn to public office because of his desire to make a difference. He is drawn to teaching for the same reason.

“I have done a lot of things, but my greatest satisfaction is making our country a better place for our kids and grandkids,” he says.

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