Former Vice President Joe Biden came to SXSW today to tout the cancer fighting initiative that’s been likened to our national moonlanding effort. Heaping praise on both Democrats and Republicans for their efforts to stop the disease, Biden made one exception: new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Scott Pruitt.
“Not smoking and having clean air and water,” Biden said, are key to fighting cancer — “notwithstanding some new person in a government agency who doesn’t believe in global warming.”
“I shouldn’t have said it that way,” he added to audience laughter.
During the speech, both Biden and wife Dr. Jill Biden spoke of their son Beau, who passed away in 2015, a personal tragedy that contributed both to Biden’s decision not to seek the presidency and to his fight for such healthcare improvements as shareable medical information. During Beau’s stay at Walter Reed Hospital, there was no mechanism to share his medical information with another hospital. “My [other] son took a picture of Beau’s data with his cell phone so he could share it,” said Biden. “I was Vice President but we couldn’t share his data… Information is a technological problem, not a cancer problem.”
Biden appealed to the creative community of SXSW to help in overcoming impediments in the cancer battle. He gave a big thank you to Amazon for helping to collect data and providing a cloud for information storage. “It has been accessed 80 million times by researchers all over the world,” he said to applause. “This increases our chances exponentially that someone, someplace will find something in the fight against cancer.”
Biden praised non-governmental efforts for aiding in cancer research and treatment, but said that government remains the most vital, like it or not.
“Private philanthropy is very important,” he said, “but billions and billions of dollars come from taxpayers. That is the bulk of the money. It comes from a government you don’t like!”
“The only bipartisan fight left in the country is the fight against cancer,” he said, commending Republicans like Lamar Alexander and even the current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“We asked for $6.3 billion in the waning hours of the last congress including $1.8 billion for the National Research Center. To show you there are a lot of decent people from both parties in Congress, Mitch McConnell — a tough partisan — moved that the U.S. Senate rename the $1.8 billion the ‘Beau Biden Initiative.’
“I am optimistic about the American people. Given the chance, they will never, never, never let their country down. At their core, Republicans and Democrats are decent people. I’m confident we can break through it.”
In closing, Biden said he’s willing to work with the Trump Administration.
“It’s my hope that this new Administration, once they get organized — and I’m not being facetious — that they will work in this fight against cancer. And I pledge I will do whatever I can do to work with this new Administration.”
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