THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release
|October 21, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT NATIONAL BREAST CANCER AWARENESS EVENT
The East Room
4:15 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I'm delighted tobe here with this distinguished panel of people, and I hope I cancommunicate a little bit of what we've tried to do in this area injust a few moments. As all of you know I think, I have been spendingmost of the last week in the Middle East peace talks at WyePlantation on the Eastern Shore. And when I conclude my remarks, Ihave to go take a call from Secretary Albright and see if I'm goingback. So I hope you'll forgive me for leaving.
Let me say I'm delighted to be here with all of you. Ithank all of you for your work. I am glad to see Senator Jeffordshere. I used to refer to Senator Jeffords as my favorite Republican,and then I was informed that I had endangered his committeechairmanship and his physical well-being. (Laughter.) So I never dothat anymore, but I'm honored to have you back in the White House,Senator. And Mayor Beverly O'Neill, from Long Beach, California,thank you for coming. And to all the rest of you.
Twenty-five years ago, America declared war on cancer.Twenty-five years from now, we have a good chance to have won thewar. I hope the war on cancer 25 years from now will have about asmuch meaning to children in school as the War of 1812. I hope schoolchildren don't even know what chemotherapy means.
For nearly six years, we have worked hard to bring uscloser to that day. We've helped cancer patients to keep theirhealth coverage when they change jobs, accelerated the approval ofcancer drugs while maintaining high standards of safety; continuallyincreased funding for cancer research.
Recently, I named Dr. Jane Henney the first woman, andthe first oncologist, to be the Commissioner of the Food and DrugAdministration. And I am pleased to report that about two hours agoshe was actually confirmed by the United States Senate. (Applause.)
Thanks to the work of a lot of you in this room, we havemade genuine process. We're closing in on the genetic causes ofbreast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and now testingmedicines to actually prevent those cancers. New tools for screeningand diagnosis are returning to many patients the promise of a longand healthy life. From 1991 to 1995, cancer death rates actuallydropped for the first time in history.
I'm especially proud of the five years of progress we'vemade in prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer. Notone day goes by that I don't think about my mother and, through her,all the other women in this country who have had that dreadeddisease. It requires more than courage to deal with it. We all oweit to ourselves and our future to make the sustained commitment toresearch that once and for all can win this war.
Without research there would be no mammography. Withoutresearch there would be no genetic testing for vulnerability tobreast cancer. Without research there would be no -- how do youpronounce that -- tamoxifin. I practiced this twice this morning--(laughter.) But since then, my chain of thought has beeninterrupted. (Laughter.) Anyway, we wouldn't have it withoutresearch. (Laughter.)
This afternoon, before I came over here, I signed thebalanced budget that we fought so hard in the last days of thisCongress. It has, among other things, breakthrough funding forcancer research and a general, large increase in research funding forour country's future -- a part of the commitment that Hillary and Imade when we ask Americans to honor the millennium by honoring ourpast and envisioning our future.
I'm pleased that the new budget includes a recordincrease of $400 million in new support for the National CancerInstitute. With nearly $3 billion in funding, NCI now will be ableto fund critical new research, including a trial to expand the use ofHerceptin to treat breast cancer earlier, and 10 more new clinicaltrials for breast cancer treatment. This is an important victory forwomen's health. It reflects a balanced budget that honors ourvalues. And this, as in so many other things, I also would like tothank the Vice President, who spearheaded our drive to get theresearch funding into the budget.
If you will, I'd like to mention just a couple of otherways that this budget strengthens our nation. First, it honors ourduty of fiscal responsibility. It is a budget surplus that we nowenjoy for the first time in nearly three decades, the largest in ourhistory. And despite the temptations here just before an election tospend it on tax cuts and new spending programs, the budget actuallymeets my challenge to set aside the surplus until we safe SocialSecurity for the 21st century.
It also provides funding within the balanced budget tobegin to hire 100,000 new teachers to reduce class size in the earlygrades; thousands of tutors to help children read; up to 100,000mentors to help poor children prepare for college; after-schoolprograms to give a quarter of a million children someplace to learninstead of the streets; a half a million summer jobs to teach youngpeople the discipline and joy of work.
The budget strengthens our nation in other ways as well.It will bolster our own prosperity and help us to meet ourresponsibilities to deal with the global economy turmoil by meetingour obligations to the International Monetary Fund. It actuallystrengthens the protection of the environment. It guarantees saferwater, cleaner air, more pristine public lands. It will helpstruggling farmers who face natural disasters and dramaticallydeclining markets as a result of the trouble in Asia.
We had to fight for each of these priorities, and thebudget is not perfect. You know, I lost the line item veto in ourcourt case, and there's a lot of little things tucked away there thatI wish weren't in that budget. But, on balance, it honors our valuesand strengthens our country and looks to the future.
Now, I believe that it's important to point out, too,that if we had the right sort of spirit throughout the year wewouldn't have had to cram a year's worth of work into a 4,000-page,40-pound document passed several days after the budget year had runout. There are still some elements of partisanship that I would liketo note in the hope that they can be removed.
In the past few days the Congress persisted in tying ourUnited Nations' dues to unrelated and controversial socialprovisions, which endanger the health of women and deny them evenbasic information about family planning, even though studies showthat countries where women have access to strong family planningactually have fewer abortions.
I've made it clear many times that I will veto suchprovisions. Congress sent me the bill to fund our arrears to theUnited Nations, knowing full well I would do so. So today I did. Iregret that. I regret, too, that the 105th Congress leaves town withunfinished business, challenges that must be met in the coming monthsand years to strengthen our families and our nations.
The next Congress must pass the patients' bill ofrights. (Applause.) I might say there is bipartisan support forthis, just not enough to get it by. Our plan says to cancer patientsand all Americans: You should have the right to a specialist, suchas an oncologist. You should not have to worry that you will have tochange doctors in the middle of a cancer treatment if your employerchanges health care providers. You should have a right to anindependent appeals process if critical treatment is delayed ordenied. Managed care or traditional care, every American should havequality care.
The next Congress should act in other ways to strengthenthe health of women. This year I asked Congress to cover clinicaltrials for Medicare beneficiaries so they, too, can get cutting edgetreatment. (Applause.) And I asked Congress to outlawdiscrimination based on the results of genetic screening.(Applause.) Both these measures failed to pass; the next Congressshould pass them. The next Congress should also meet our obligationsto our children by modernizing our schools. And above all, the nextCongress must be the Congress that acts to save Social Security.
This year we had a series of bipartisan forums aroundthe country on how to reform Social Security to meet the burdens thatwill be there when the baby boomers retire and we'll only have abouttwo people working for every one person drawing Social Security.We're going to have a national conference in December. We weresuccessful in saving the surplus until we could consider the cost infuture years of reforming Social Security.
Social Security lifted a generation of elderly Americansfrom poverty. Today, even though most Americans have other sourcesof income who draw Social Security, fully one half of our seniorswould be in poverty without it. So here at the White House on Fridaywe will talk about the vital importance of Social Security,especially to women, who have fewer pensions and smaller savings.
If we want to keep this commitment as strong for ourchildren as it was for our parents, and if we want to see the babyboomers retire in dignity without imposing unfair burdens on ourchildren and their ability to raise our grandchildren, we must actnow.
I must say, I was disappointed a couple of days ago thatthe Senate Majority Leader said he may not now want to join me inreforming Social Security next year. If we don't, then there will bemore pressure to squander this money on tax cuts or spendingprograms. I think that is unhelpful. We know that we can makemodest changes now that have a huge impact down the road, in much theway that modest investments in research now have a huge impact downthe road on health care. And I believe this is an issue which reallybinds the American people not only across generations, but acrosspolitical parties. None of us -- none of us -- wants to leave alegacy of burdening our children to support our retirement or riskingthat those of us who -- unlike me, won't have a good pension -- willface an undignified and impoverished old age just because thedemographics are changing in America. So we need progress, notpartisanship, on Social Security.
Now, there are 436 days left in this millennium. It can-- it should -- be a time when we redouble our efforts to honor ourparents, to strengthen our nation, to prepare for our children'sfuture, and to honor the tenacity and courage that those of you herehave shown every day in dealing with this great challenge.
Again, let me say, I am very proud of what this budgetdid for cancer research. I'm very proud of what we are doingtogether to deal with the challenge of breast cancer. I want you toknow that I believe that we are within reach of genuine cures andgenuine prevention strategies of stunning impact. And we have toremember that on the things that really count, whether it's cancerresearch, or saving Social Security, or educating our children, thiscountry needs to be united. This country needs to be reconciled toone another -- all of us -- across all the lines that divide us.
There are plenty of things to fight about. But on thefundamental things, we need to be one. That is, parenthetically, theargument I've been making for a week out at the Middle East peacetalks.
The only way that life ever really works is when weunderstand that the only victories that have lasting impacts are notvictories over other people, but victories for our common humanity.And that's what I'm going to work for now. To me, that's what everyday your struggle against breast cancer symbolizes. And I'm verygrateful to all of you.
Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)