The Command Post
2004 US Presidential Election
July 28, 2004
Boston | Speech Text: Ron Reagan

Here’s the full text of Ron Reagan’s Democratic National Convention comments, via the DNCC (email):

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

A few of you may be surprised to see someone with my last name showing up to speak at a Democratic convention. Let me assure you, I am not here to make a political speech, and the topic at hand should not — must not — have anything to do with partisanship.

I am here tonight to talk about the issue of research into what may be the greatest medical breakthrough in our or in any lifetime: the use of embryonic stem cells — cells created using the material of our own bodies — to cure a wide range of fatal and debilitating illnesses: Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, lymphoma, spinal cord injuries, and much more. Millions are afflicted. Every year, every day, tragedy is visited upon families across the country, around the world.

Now, we may be able to put an end to this suffering. We only need to try. Some of you already know what I’m talking about when I say “embryonic stem cell research.” Others of you are probably thinking, hmm, that’s quite a mouthful, what is this all about?

Let me try and paint as simple a picture as I can while still doing justice to the incredible science involved. Let’s say that ten or so years from now you are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. There is currently no cure and drug therapy, with its attendant side-effects, can only temporarily relieve the symptoms.

Now, imagine going to a doctor who, instead of prescribing drugs, takes a few skin cells from your arm. The nucleus of one of your cells is placed into a donor egg whose own nucleus has been removed. A bit of chemical or electrical stimulation will encourage your cell’s nucleus to begin dividing, creating new cells which will then be placed into a tissue culture. Those cells will generate embryonic stem cells containing only your DNA, thereby eliminating the risk of tissue rejection. These stem cells are then driven to become the very neural cells that are defective in Parkinson’s patients. And finally, those cells — with your DNA — are injected into your brain where they will replace the faulty cells whose failure to produce adequate dopamine led to the Parkinson’s disease in the first place.

In other words, you’re cured. And another thing, these embryonic stem cells, they could continue to replicate indefinitely and, theoretically, can be induced to recreate virtually any tissue in your body. How’d you like to have your own personal biological repair kit standing by at the hospital? Sound like magic? Welcome to the future of medicine.

By the way, no fetal tissue is involved in this process. No fetuses are created, none destroyed. This all happens in the laboratory at the cellular level.

Now, there are those who would stand in the way of this remarkable future, who would deny the federal funding so crucial to basic research. They argue that interfering with the development of even the earliest stage embryo, even one that will never be implanted in a womb and will never develop into an actual fetus, is tantamount to murder. A few of these folks, needless to say, are just grinding a political axe and they should be ashamed of themselves. But many are well-meaning and sincere. Their belief is just that, an article of faith, and they are entitled to it.

But it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many. And how can we affirm life if we abandon those whose own lives are so desperately at risk?

It is a hallmark of human intelligence that we are able to make distinctions. Yes, these cells could theoretically have the potential, under very different circumstances, to develop into human beings — that potential is where their magic lies. But they are not, in and of themselves, human beings. They have no fingers and toes, no brain or spinal cord. They have no thoughts, no fears. They feel no pain. Surely we can distinguish between these undifferentiated cells multiplying in a tissue culture and a living, breathing person-a parent, a spouse, a child.

I know a child — well, she must be 13 now — I’d better call her a young woman. She has fingers and toes. She has a mind. She has memories. She has hopes. And she has juvenile diabetes.

Like so many kids with this disease, she has adjusted amazingly well. The insulin pump she wears — she’s decorated hers with rhinestones. She can insert her own catheter needle. She has learned to sleep through the blood drawings in the wee hours of the morning. She’s very brave. She is also quite bright and understands full well the progress of her disease and what that might ultimately mean: blindness, amputation, diabetic coma. Every day, she fights to have a future.

What excuse will we offer this young woman should we fail her now? What might we tell her children? Or the millions of others who suffer? That when given an opportunity to help, we turned away? That facing political opposition, we lost our nerve? That even though we knew better, we did nothing?

And, should we fail, how will we feel if, a few years from now, a more enlightened generation should fulfill the promise of embryonic stem cell therapy? Imagine what they would say of us who lacked the will.

No, we owe this young woman and all those who suffer — we owe ourselves - - better than that. We are better than that. A wiser people, a finer nation. And for all of us in this fight, let me say: we will prevail.

The tide of history is with us. Like all generations who have come before ours, we are motivated by a thirst for knowledge and compelled to see others in need as fellow angels on an often difficult path, deserving of our compassion.

In a few months, we will face a choice. Yes, between two candidates and two parties, but more than that. We have a chance to take a giant stride forward for the good of all humanity. We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology. This is our moment, and we must not falter.

Whatever else you do come November 2nd, I urge you, please, cast a vote for embryonic stem cell research. Thank you for your time.



Posted by Alan at July 28, 2004 12:56 AM | TrackBack
Comments

“But it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many.”

Dr. Mengele would be proud.

Posted by: Jim [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 04:20 AM

The world you seem to yearn for, Jim, would be governed by pre-Copernican celestial mechanics. Every single space mission would have failed. Imagine a world where millions of man-, or more realistically woman-hours are lost annually washing frying pans. Imagine a world without the refreshing taste of Tang.

Is that hell on earth your goal?

Posted by: bananas [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 07:36 AM

Did Tang kill people?

Why do libs hate adult stem cells? Oh, they can’t bash Bush with them.

Posted by: jones [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 08:09 AM

“Dr. Mengele would be proud.”

Godwin has been invoked. First post. It’s a record.

Posted by: Vince [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 08:31 AM

..I`m torn on this one ..to slowly watch someone die would drive me utterly insane.Research if done ((appropriately))should go foward..But….as in every thing else in this world there will be those with no morals. And say what gives you the right to restrict my research…and take this research to places we all fear…

Posted by: Rob_NC [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 08:58 AM

If a person is against stem cell research, on the basis of being pro-life, then they must also be against test tube babies at fertility clinics, since there are literally millions of fertilized embryos in freezers around the world who are destined to never be implanted and born. What are we going to do with these children? Couples may have 10 or 20 fertilized eggs banked in the freezers, with no intent of having more than 2 or 3 children.

Even if that’s okay, somehow (which I don’t think it is), what happens when they come up with a cure for juvenile diabetes and your child has JD? Do you refuse to cure your child as an ethical stand? Or how about a spouse with lymphoma? Do you let them die, refusing a cure?

The sad truth is that the genie never goes back into the bottle. In 50 years, will pro-lifers be treated medically like Jehovah witnesses who refuse a blood transfusion for their children and are sued by hospitals and doctors for denying treatment to children?

I guess for me, if I were one of those eggs destined to never be born (notice, I didn’t say specifically created to be used for stem cells), I’d rather be donated to science. I’m an organ donor, because I want my last act in this life to help others.

Posted by: Mona B. [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 09:08 AM

Whether the TANG ever killed people depends on who ticked the box: Do Not Volunteer

Posted by: bananas [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 09:37 AM

Mona,

I’m not against stem cell research conducted with either adult or embryonic stem cells. In fact, both types of stem cell research are being conducted today in the U.S. as well as in other countries. The “political” issue in the U.S. concerns whether the government should fund the type of research that uses embryonic stem cells. The reason why there is such a clammor for government funding of embryonic stem cell research is due to the fact that the science with such cells is proving to have a number of problems. Private funding is dropping off and focusing on the more promising adult stem cells prompting researchers to seek government funding to continue.

The comment in my earlier post simply focused on the problems that I see evident in setting some arbitrary standard to justify any type of research. Who are the many? What are the benefits? Expanded to other areas of science and life (the disabled, the aged, the infirm, the poor, the non-productive), the point of view expressed in the italicized sentence I quoted should cause great concern to all.

Posted by: Jim [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 11:49 AM

Jim, I don’t think we disagree on the majority of the stuff. But I thought the ban was limiting both private and gov’t funding to a tiny subset of stem cell lines. It’s entirely possible I was wrong, it was a while back.

Posted by: Mona B. [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 12:15 PM

Jim,

Nicley done.

Mona B.

Would you take a kidney from an executed prisoner?

Bananas,

If you can’t stay on topic, at least provide documentation for your red herring.

Posted by: jones [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 01:57 PM

jones: The NRA says guns don’t kill people, people kill people. If you ever need an armed escort and are provided with a pair of tooled-up cuvettes, I fancy you’d feel short-changed in a firefight. But I will honour your request. I assumed it was common knowledge.

Posted by: bananas [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 03:51 PM

Did he refuse to go? And that killed people how?

You are reaching really far.

Posted by: jones [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 28, 2004 06:37 PM

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