YESTERDAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE
by Don C. Reed
Dear Stem Cell Research Advocate:
Yesterday, being in the room when President Obama signed an executive order reversing ideological restrictions on embryonic stem cell research was an honor and a delight.
But for my paralyzed son Roman Reed and all the other patient advocates in the room, it meant so much more than that: the White House is now squarely on the side of cure.
The East Room was jammed with dignitaries as we waited for the President to come in. Just a few feet away were Senators Orrin Hatch, Dianne Feinstein, Jim Langevin, many more. Scientists like Renee Reijo-Peira, Harold Varmus, and Irv Weissman. Patient advocates, champions all, Bob Klein, Zach Hall, Dan Perry, Kris Gulden, Alta Charo, literally hundreds more, each one deserving of his or her own book, champions all.
And then the voice said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.” LAn emotion like an electric current surged through us, and I found myself on my feet without knowing how I got there.
You have to look up his speech, it was too great to miss. It is only ten minutes, but just packed with value.
Not only did he speak out strongly on behalf of stem cell research,but he also announced a new White House-directed effort to be sure that scientific policy was based on science, not ideology.
He spoke clearly, and calmly, and with the accuracy too often dismissed as mere eloquence. He spoke the truth, and it registered strongly because it was the truth.
All too soon it was over, and he was heading out the door, but he stopped to shake a few hands, and to take a picture or two, including one with my son, Roman. My wife Gloria tried to get him to allow another one with me personally, but he said “Hey, guys, I really have to go,” talking to us like we were neighbors, and he had to go answer the phone.
Like John F. Kennedy who pointed toward the moon, the President has challenged a nation: we are all part of this tremendous adventure, as we work to cure diseases and disabilities that are not only ruining lives, but also devastating our economy.
Last year America spent $2.3 trillion on medical costs, more than all federal income taxes put together.
Only cure can substantially lower these mountainous costs.
That was what yesterday meant: that we have set cure as a goal for our nation, and the world.
The Reed family got home at 11:30 last night, and will be on the road again at 4:30 this morning, one hour from now, to go down to the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act “Meet the Scientist” Days at UC Irvine and another day of meetings on California’s stem cell program.
I will write more later, but I had to speak now or burst with happiness.