On Monday night, in what might be remembered as Jimmy Kimmel’s most important moment, the late-night comedian best known for his television pranks, perpetual feud with Matt Damon, and his association with one of the biggest flubs in Oscar history, delivered an emotional, 13-minute monologue that has possibly proved the most impactful political criticism since Donald Trump took office.
In front of his in-studio audience and before living rooms worldwide, Kimmel revealed that his son, Billy, had been born just days before with a heart defect that required immediate surgery, with more surgical procedures to come. Tearing up, Kimmel explained how terrifying the ordeal was for him and his family, and used the experience as a jumping off point to dig into the current healthcare debate that is raging in the USA.
“Before 2014,” Kimmel said, “if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition….If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”
Kimmel went on to ask if health care was something that could begin to unify, rather than divide, his nation.
“I think that’s something now, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, or something else, we all agree on that, right?….Whatever your party, whatever you believe, whoever you support, we need to make sure that the people who are supposed to represent us — people who are meeting about this right now in Washington — understand that very clearly.”
“Let’s stop with the nonsense,” he continued, “This isn’t football. There are no teams. We are the team. It’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants. We need to take care of each other.”
What makes his words so powerful is the rather simple philosophy behind them – that regardless of political association, all people should be regarded as equal, independent of the numbers in their bank account, and that all people should be entitled to the same healthcare. For people in the UK, Canada, Europe, and other western nations, the sentiment is an almost innate one, but in the USA, it is splitting the nation.
Since Tuesday, Kimmel’s monologue has gone viral with nearly 9.6 million views and counting. Politicians, including former president Barack Obama, have responded to him with support and echoed his words with their own.
Kimmel did not need to open up this difficult chapter in his life with viewers. Because he could afford the right care for his baby, it might be understandable if he – like in most of his prior shows – shied away from politics entirely. But that’s also what makes what he did Tuesday so effective. He put his usual reluctance to address the Trump administration aside and spoke up about something that matters not only to him – but to everyone.
For making the personal political, we chose Jimmy Kimmel as our Speak of the Week.