I know you have a lot on your plate right now, but … I’m going to toss one more serving up there.
“ABCD by 2023” is an ambitious scientific research project I’d like to see Americans undertake. Briefly, it’s a 10-year Apollo-style project against four diseases: Alzheimer’s. Birth defects. Cancer. Diabetes.
For the rest of it, I hope you’ll forgive me for presenting it as a presidential speech:
ABCD by 2023 (1,163 words, about 10 minutes to deliver) *
One of the major issues of this presidential campaign, for all of the candidates, has been the economy. Yet in speaking of the economy, and of so many other issues – issues of national security, energy 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 technological miracles 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.
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 invest once again in America’s scientific greatness, to propel our nation back to the forefront of 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.
To that end, I vow to devote my presidency to a ten-year Apollo-type program in medical research.
President Kennedy presented us with a difficult quest, but one which was describable in three short sentences. “Put a man on the moon. Bring him safely back home. Do it in ten years.” Stated in those simple terms, that goal sparked our imaginations and set us ablaze with the desire to actually do it.
But to state it even more simply: “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 ten-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 ten-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 ten-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 ten-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 provided huge returns, 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.
* Those of you who don’t happen to be the president, some of you may have seen this might-be speech last year. In slightly edited form, I’ve posted it before.