This was buried fairly far down in a previous post, Obama’s Speechwriter … sort of, and I thought I’d pull it out on its own and repost it. Because, damn, I’d love to hear him make it, or something like it. (Click through to the earlier story to read the context, which was a freelance speech I wrote for the 2008 campaign.)
One of the major issues of this presidential campaign, for all of the candidates, has been the war in Iraq. Yet in speaking of the war, and of so many other issues – issues of national security, energy issues, economic issues, issues of the global environment – we have reacted to emergencies now before us, rather than taking a more thoughtful, proactive approach, to foresee and avoid potential emergencies to come, and to foresee and help create the countless opportunities which may lie in our future.
America has had a number of great victories in military battles, but one of our greatest victories in recent memory was not a victory of war, it was a victory of this type of forward-looking proactivity, a victory of invention and research, a victory in an epic quest for a quintessentially American achievement.
That quest, President John F. Kennedy’s vision to place a man on the moon, and bring him safely back to earth, brought not just a renewed pride for Americans, and not just a new measure of admiration around the world, it brought a cavalcade of new discoveries that went far beyond those we found on the moon.
It brought us new materials, new sciences, new medicines and new techniques in medical monitoring, new discoveries and inventions that helped speed us into this amazing age of computers and medical miracles that we live in today.
It also helped bring about greatly accelerated economic growth, and it placed a new spotlight on the necessity, even the urgency, of a commitment to education, particularly science education.
The strength of a nation is measured not simply in its military might, but in the power of its commitment to discovery and advancement.
The security of a nation rests not just in gateways and guards but in ideas and discoveries that help ensure the present and future well-being of the citizens who call that nation their homeland.
And the wealth of a nation is measured not simply in dollars, but in the equity of education residing in the minds of its citizens.
Every problem in the world today, from the starvation and want that still plagues us in so many places in the world, to the grave environmental dangers that will face us in coming years, to our own recent economic woes, is susceptible not to wishful thinking, not to blind optimism, but to the solutions of hard work and clearheaded, forward-looking reason and science.
In that light, I am today announcing my commitment to bring America back to greatness in the sciences, to commit our nation to science education and scientific research.
I am as proud as I can be of our nation’s space program, and I want us to continue to take that road to the greater achievements we have all imagined. But I also want us to push back the frontiers here on earth.
President Kennedy presented us with a complicated quest, but he was able to state it in simple terms that sparked our imaginations and set us ablaze with the desire to actually do it. “Put a man on the moon. Bring him back home safely. Do it in ten years.”
I doubt I can match the inspiring words of President Kennedy, but I would like to state my own goal in equally simple terms: Put an end to four incurable diseases. Save millions upon millions of American lives and families. Do it in fifteen years.
I say 15 years rather than ten because I believe the complexity of the task – the fact that there are four goals within the one larger goal – will require the extra time.
But to put it in even simpler terms: “ABCD by 2023.”
I know every American over age 50 looks forward to continued aging with great concern. We face not just killers, but destroyers of the mind that leave us alive but rob us of our selves. The greatest of those robbers may be Alzheimer’s. Therefore, I call on Congress and all Americans to commit with me to a fifteen year program to find a definitive cure for A, Alzheimer’s.
Every young American looks forward to the joy of building a family, yet all of us face the specter of birth defects. Therefore, I call on Congress and all Americans to commit with me to a fifteen year program to discover and perfect all possible preventatives and cures for B, birth defects.
Every American, every citizen of the world, of every age, faces the dread possibility of cancer. I call on Congress and all Americans to join with me in declaring a fifteen year campaign to find cures for C, cancer of all types.
Finally, a disease both debilitating and deadly for those children and adults stricken with it, a disease on the rise in America, Diabetes. I call on Congress and all Americans to commit, as I do, to a fifteen year program to end D, diabetes, to cut new cases to zero, and to cure those already afflicted with it.
There is not a single extended family in America which has been untouched in some way by one or more of these diseases. The toll of each one by itself, but especially the toll of them all together, has been devastating – killing and wounding more of us annually than all the wars we have ever engaged in.
If we work together, if we commit ourselves fully to this fight, with funding, with research, with a renewed commitment to science education, and with the infinite resolve of which Americans are capable, there will come a day when we will look out over America and see a multitude of senior citizens still healthy and aware, still productive, who might otherwise have slipped into the deadly twilight of Alzheimer’s.
We will see millions of babies growing up to enjoy healthy, happy lives when they might otherwise suffer disability or death.
We will look out and see millions of family members and loved ones alive and well who might formerly have died of cancer.
And we will see millions more who will happily know diabetes only as a word from medical history books.
Just as the Apollo program was, this quest will be difficult. But just as the Apollo program did, these cures, and the research that will make them possible, will pay vast dividends to American security, productivity, wealth and world influence.
More importantly, for every individual set on the path to health and personal well-being, and for every family member who loves them, the value of the successful achievement of each of these goals will be the value of life and health itself.
As president, I will take up this challenge. In turn I will challenge Congress, the American people, the high schools and colleges and universities of our nation, the scientific and medical communities, and the compassionate, supportive communities of faith, to join with me in achieving this goal.
I believe we can do this. I believe we should. I believe we must.
I hope to have the support of every American in reaching for this most difficult star.
I thank you.