Over the weekend our longtime friend and colleague Rob Restuccia succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Whether his years at the helm of the national consumer advocacy organization Community Catalyst or his work on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, or many other policy debates, Rob was at the center of the effort to extend the benefits of good health coverage to all Americans for more than 30 years.
Many of us here knew Rob well. Many friends have remarked on his lack of ego, his hard work that made a difference in so many lives, and his passionate dedication to helping people find their own strengths as advocates for better health care.
This last quality was one of Rob’s greatest strengths – his ability to envision helping others with the training, support and encouragement they needed to become great advocates themselves. Rob wanted people all over the country to succeed as health care advocates in the same way he had – and his gift was making this a reality. Any list of those inspired by Rob and the organizations he helped lead includes respected and effective advocates in their own right in over 40 states. Through them, his legacy lives on.
Rob was in my thoughts this weekend as I was out with my family watching the beautiful new Apollo 11 documentary that features unbelievable lost footage of the mission to the moon. One part in particular made me think of Rob. It was when Neil Armstrong, speaking on the flight back to earth, took his time as a newly-minted hero to describe himself and his fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins as just the “visible periscope.” Armstrong explained that while everyone watches the astronauts, their accomplishment wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of thousands of scientists, technicians, engineers and other workers toiling away behind the scenes all working toward the same goal.
In health policy, our “visible periscope” consists of the political leaders and flashy debates over legislation such as the ACA. Rob helped organize the incredibly strong movement of regular Americans that made those speeches and passage of health care legislation possible. Thanks Rob.
Photo courtesy of Community Catalyst.