The Power of One

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For a society that is obsessed with power, we haven’t done a great job of defining it. What is it exactly that we want? Is it power over objects, power over others, power over ourselves?

Power can come from many things – whether it be wealth, followers, or recognition – but it boils down to who has the most control. Perhaps the most obvious example of a struggle for power is American politics.

We are always concerned with who is in power, in terms of people and in terms of party. The presidency of the United States is regarded not only as the most powerful position in the nation but the entire world. It is a fair statement to say that the POTUS is quite powerful, yet there are situations in which he can become powerless.

As you probably know from some required government or civics class, the federal government is composed of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. The president heads the executive branch. So how is our president different from a monarch?

Thankfully, America runs on a little thing called checks and balances. Any executive order made by the president is subject to scrutiny by the judicial branch. Just recently, the Muslim ban was ruled unconstitutional.

A more interesting question is how can one be powerful in a powerless position? To answer that, I’d tell you to look no further than at 35-year-old Keisha Saunders. Saunders lives in the poorest county in the nation, and she does it by choice. Her choice is her power. Saunders grew up in this very county, McDowell County in West Virginia, and left to pursue an education. She came back to, quite literally, check up on them.

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Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount

You see, Saunders is a nurse practitioner in a county where virtually all of inhabitants are dependent on health insurance. For the last couple of years, this meant ObamaCare. McDowell used to be a mining community, but the decline of the industry has caused most of its residents to leave in search of work and the rest to fall on hard times. Many of them are unemployed and would not have health insurance were it not for the Affordable Care Act.

That’s where Nurse Saunders comes in. Her county voted overwhelmingly for Trump, and, despite her own personal beliefs (she’s a Hillary supporter), she felt it was beyond her power to sway their vote. Now with the Republican plan to repeal the ACA, the people of McDowell are feeling powerless. So, Saunders does what she has to do. She works at a free clinic and stays for an hour after closing time. In the event of an ACA repeal, she says she will work to make sure the people of McDowell retain access to healthcare, whether it be through pharmaceutical samples or a clinic four hours upstate.

Realistically, there’s not much Saunders can do to prevent the ACA from being repealed. So, she does what she can. She works, she perseveres, and she shows us the power of one.