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Unveiling of the Breast Cancer Stamp

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First Lady


JULY 29, 1998

Welcome to the East Room and the White House. Starting thisweek, all Americans will be able to open up their hearts and mailboxes andhelp stamp out breast cancer once and for all. And when we do, it will bein large part because of the people in this room, and the people yourepresent all over our country.

It will be because of the Postal Service, which is delivering -- alongwith our mail -- a new weapon in the fight against breast cancer. Iespecially want to thank our new Postmaster General, Bill Henderson, forhis vision and leadership; the Postal Board of Governors; the New StampAdvisory Committee; and all the postal employees, some of whom are watchingby satellite right now.

When we stamp out breast cancer it will be because of the artistry ofEthel Kessler and Whitney Sherman. And the tireless advocacy of Dr. ErnieBodai, Betsy Mullen, and all the survivors who are standing up and speakingout to stop breast cancer and heal those it strikes. It will be because ofSecretary Shalala's extraordinary leadership at the Department of Healthand Human Services, starting when she convened a group to come up with anational action plan against breast cancer.

It will certainly be because of the Members of Congress -- some ofwhom are here today, from both the Senate and the House -- who, year in andyear out have demanded that breast cancer be placed at the top of ournational agenda -- where it belongs.

I want to pay special tribute to the architects of the Stamp OutBreast Cancer Act -- Senator Feinstein and Congressman Fazio. Thank youfor your creativity that brought this idea to the Halls of Congress, andyour dedication that helped make it the law of the land.

In fact, back in 1996, when Dr. Bodai went to his Congressman with theidea for a breast cancer stamp, he encountered a leader who has alwayscared deeply about finding a cure for breast cancer; someone who knows thatwe must continue to increase funding for all biomedical research, andsomeone who has always backed up these convictions with action. It is nowmy great honor to introduce Dr Bodai's congressman, Congressman Vic Fazio.

[Speaking portion.]

[First Lady resumes speaking.]

Thank you so much for that speech. Did she do a great job? Thank youfor your comments, but also for all you've done to help other women get thesupport and care and information they need to "WIN Against Breast Cancer."As I was listening to Betsy's story, I thought about her journey. I thoughtabout the courage and commitment she demonstrated, and I thought about howfar we've all traveled. I thought about all the women I know who have,themselves, fought breast cancer. I have a friend who today is having amastectomy, and I thought about how not so long ago, the words breastcancer were barely whispered in the dark, if they were said at all.

It was a disease that women and men did not feel comfortable talkingabout, were ashamed of, embarrassed by. Now we can turn all of that fearand anguish into the kind of courage and commitment we saw embodied inBetsy and all of you who are here and are survivors of breast cancer, allof you who are family members of victims of breast cancer. You have helpedturn that energy into a national call to action. Today, we have givensomething for every American to respond to that call to action. Most of uswill not be the surgeons who will assist them, and nurses who will comfortthem. Most of us will not be researchers or scientists in the lab makingthe breakthrough in genetic research. Most of us will not be senators orcongressmen/women who are voting on legislation to increase funding in thebattle against breast cancer.

Each of us, when we send our letters or pay our bills, can put thisstamp of hope on the envelope. Every time we do, we will be contributingto the research that will reap hope and pray for our children, transformbreast cancer from a daily threat to a distant memory. Every time we lookat this wonderful stamp, so beautifully designed and illustrated, we cansee the face of someone we know and love. We can see our mothers, oursisters, our daughters, our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues.

There are so many women who have endured what Betsy described to us.Many of the women who work for me here in the White House, many of thewomen who volunteer, and many of the women on the president's and vicepresident's staff, so many women throughout the government, so many womenon Capitol Hill, so many women here in Washington -- have heard the words.But today, we know that we have an opportunity to do something to show oursupport in a very tangible way.

I urge all Americans to join in the fight against breast cancer. Todo it in a lot of different ways -- by listening to those who were toldthat they were diagnosed with cancer. Call your friends and your relativesand your colleagues, and phone those who are facing chemotherapy, orradiation, or surgery. Laugh with them, go shopping -- to buy hats andwigs and scarves. Don't be embarrassed ever again to show your love andsupport to someone who is suffering from this tragic disease. Also makesure that you not only buy the stamp, but you tell your friends, neighbors,and colleagues to do the same. We know that we've come a long a way in ourfight against breast cancer. The President has a very personal reason forurging increases in research that he has urged, the Congress has supported.He lost his mother to breast cancer after a valiant fight. We've seen great progress in the work that is being done bygovernment-funded research and clinical trials. The Department of DefenseBreast Cancer Research Program has dramatically expanded. Women receivingMedicare can now get annual mammograms, without any deductibles. We'velaunched an annual campaign to educate older women about the benefits ofmammography. Under Secretary Shalala's leadership, we've seen the birthand growth of the National Action Plan on Breast Cancer, a public/privatepartnership working towards one goal, and one goal alone: the finaleradication of breast cancer.

We are facing a critical juncture in the war on cancer -- not onlybreast cancer, but other forms of cancer as well. Our commitment as anation is finally beginning to pay off. We have put a lot of governmentdollars and private dollars and a lot of hearts into this fight againstcancer.With more invested in this critical time, we can really break through in adramatic way on the cancer front.

We have many obstacles -- and whenever I think about obstacles, Ithink about my late mother-in-law. She never wanted anyone to feel sorryfor her when she had breast cancer. As with every other adversity shefaced in her life, she'd get up at the crack of dawn, put on her lipstickand false eyelashes and go out and celebrate life. She was a greatinspiration in all of us who knew and loved her. I remember the samplershe kept by her nightstand that read: "Lord, help me to remember thatnothing is going to happen to me today that you and I can't handle."

I've seen that same courage in the eyes and heard it in the voices ofso many women. I hope that all of us will do whatever we can to expandcoverage for Medicare cancer clinical trials, to look for new initiatives-- like this wonderful idea of a stamp -- and to fulfill the President'srequest for an additional 65 percent increase in cancer research.

We also have to be sure that no matter what kind of insurance policy awoman has, whether it's managed care or traditional care, she will alwaysget the best care. When a woman is told she has breast cancer, she shouldknow that every effective treatment is being used to help her. She and herphysician should be making the decisions about her health, not a businessperson or a book keeper in an office hundreds of miles away.

Most importantly, if a woman with breast cancer has already embarkedon a course of treatment with her doctor -- even if her employer switchesinsurance plans, she must still have access to that doctor she trusts. Sheshould never have to switch doctors in the middle of her treatment, as toomany women have been told in the last two years. Imagine how you wouldfeel if you or your mother, your wife, your daughter, had developed thistrust towards the doctor treating her in this life-threatening,life-altering disease -- suddenly dropped from the insurance plan, or hadan employer change plans in midstream -- and that woman was told that shehas to go somewhere else, with someone she does not know, and start overagain. That's one of the many reasons we need a Patient's Bill of Rights.

On September 26, thousands will gather on the Mall for a march toconquer all cancers for all time. I hope you'll send letters with thisstamp, telling a lot of your friends about that march.

In order to conquer breast cancer and other cancers, we need thecommitment and efforts of every single person in this country. We willneed the courage that has been shown by all youwho are breast cancer survivors. We need the confidence that comes withknowing where to win our part in this brave fight.

I want to thank all of you who have helped bring us to this time, andurge all of us to continue to do everything within our individual power towin this fight against breast cancer for our mothers, our wives, ourdaughters, our friends, for ourselves.

Thank you very much.

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August 1998

Annual National Conference of La Raza

150th Anniversary of the Women's Right Convention Seneca Falls

Unveiling of the Breast Cancer Stamp

Charter School Meeting