Ron Reagan, Jr. Calls for Increased Stem-Cell Research

[See full text of his speech below.]

July 27, 2004; Boston, MA ( CNN) -- Ron Reagan, son of the late president, called on Americans to "cast a vote for embryonic stem cell research" when they go to the polls in November. Reagan told the 20,000 people assembled at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday that stem cell research may lead to the "greatest medical breakthrough in our or in any lifetime."

The subject is a highly controversial one. In 2001, President Bush limited the use of federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research, citing moral and ethical concerns about performing experiments with fertilized human embryos. Proponents of such research insist those restrictions interfere with efforts to develop new treatments for a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer's, which slowly killed the former president. "Now, there are those who would stand in the way of this remarkable future," Reagan said, speaking of potential discoveries, "who would deny the Federal funding so crucial to basic research. "A few of these folks, needless to say, are just grinding a political axe and they should be ashamed of themselves." Reagan told the delegates that the choice in November is more than selecting one ticket over another. "We can choose between the future and the past," he said, "between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology."

Reagan spoke of a 13-year-old friend who has Juvenile Diabetes. She has learned to live with her disease, he said. But she faces a bleak future. What will we tell her? he asked. "That when given an opportunity to help, we turned away? That facing political opposition, we lost our nerve?" Reagan painted a picture where he envisioned a Parkinson's Disease patient being cured as the result of stem-cell research. He described the potential of using a patient's own skin cells and a donor egg to produce neural cells that would be injected into the brain. He called it a "Personal Biological Repair Kit" and labeled it the "future of medicine."

Stem cells typically are taken from days-old human embryos and then grown in a laboratory into lines or colonies. Because the embryos are destroyed when the cells are extracted, the process is opposed by some conservatives who link it to abortion. Reagan said there was a distinction between an embryo and a fetus. An embryo is not a human being, he said. Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, supports their use in research. Reagan reminded the audience that millions of people are afflicted with debilitating diseases. "Now, we may be able to put an end to this suffering," he said. "We only need to try."

Remarks by Ron Reagan Jr. to the Democratic National Convention

The following is a transcript of a speech by Mr. Ron Reagan Jr. at the Fleet Center in Boston, MA on July 27, 2004; 10:05 PM EDT; Chnl 37, CNN-TV; TRT = 09:40 ( RPNewswire)

[*!* = lengthy applause and/or cheering by the audience]

[ wraps]

"Thank you. Thank you very much. That's very kind.

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.*!* [Apparently some of you are not.] 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, it may be within our power 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 that's quite a mouthful maybe it's time to go for a "tall, cold one." What's this all about? [Wait a minute.] 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.

Now, 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... *!* 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 guess 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 handle 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 would 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. *!* We are 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 we do come November 2nd, I urge you, please cast a vote for embryonic stem-cell research. Thank you for your time." *!*

[Roll music...]

Here is a relevant excerpt of Sen. John Kerry's Acceptance Speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston on Thursday night, July 29th...

"...So much promise stretches before us. Americans have always reached for the impossible, looked to the next horizon, and asked: What if?"

"Two young bicycle mechanics from Dayton asked, what if this airplane could take off at Kitty Hawk? It did that and changed the world forever. A young President asked, what if we could go to the moon in ten years? And now we're exploring the solar system and the stars themselves. A young generation of entrepreneurs asked, 'what if we could take all the information in a library and put it on a little chip the size of a fingernail?' We did, and that too changed the world forever."

"And now it's our time to ask: What if?"

"What if we find a breakthrough to cure Parkinson's, Diabetes, Alzheimer's, and AIDs? What if we have a President who believes in science, so we can unleash the wonders of discovery like Stem-Cell Research to treat illness and save millions of lives?"