Carrington woman attends speechAbout 6 p.m. Tuesday, Ellen Linderman got a phone call in the Carrington, N.D., home she shares with husband, Charles Linderman. It was the White House, asking her to hop a plane to Washington to attend President Barack Obama’s speech on health care reform Wednesday night. She sat right next to first lady Michelle Obama at the address to a joint session of Congress.
By: By Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS — About 6 p.m. Tuesday, Ellen Linderman got a phone call in the Carrington, N.D., home she shares with husband, Charles Linderman. It was the White House, asking her to hop a plane to Washington to attend President Barack Obama’s speech on health care reform Wednesday night.
She sat right next to first lady Michelle Obama at the address to a joint session of Congress.
It happened so fast, they weren’t entirely sure why the invitation came, said Charles, who watched it all at home after e-mailing “everyone I could think of.”
“She wasn’t even contacted until last night,” he said after the speech. “Somebody made all the arrangements. They do things fast.”
Ellen flew out of Fargo about 6 a.m. Wednesday and called her husband from her Washington hotel about 11 a.m., he said.
The Lindermans raise wheat and food-grade soybeans exported to Japan on a farm just south of Carrington. They live in town.
They have three grown children and are active in the Democratic Party.
Ellen has been active in the North Dakota Farmers Union and met then-Sen. Barack Obama during a farm lobbying trip to Washington about two years ago.
But it appears that Ellen’s participation last month in a health care forum held by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., in Jamestown is what caught the White House’s attention, Charles said.
After Charles left a state job in Bismarck and they returned to farming full-time, his state health insurance policy ran out, he said, explaining what Ellen had said at the health care forum.
“She made the comment that we had been without health coverage for a while. She had surgery and had a pre-existing condition . . . Blue Cross Blue Shield took advantage of that to try and drop us. Which we didn’t think was fair, because we had been with them since we started farming in 1976. I kind of think they thought, ‘These people are getting old, we would like to drop them.’”
After a battle, he said, “We did get reinstated.”
The White House staffer who called with the quick invite Tuesday evening asked about the health insurance problems, he said.
The Lindermans attended the Democrats’ state convention in Grand Forks in 2008 and saw Obama speak, but didn’t meet him then.
Charles served four terms in the state House of Representatives in the 1980s and 1990s; Ellen ran and lost for the Legislature in 2006.
Tuesday’s rain stalled Ellen on the farm, Charles said. “But she would have gone anyway.”
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