Moments ago President Obama marked a monumental moment for hope with an audience of Nobel Laureates, leaders of the faith community, and patient advocates.
Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield.
The President acknowledged that there are those who strongly oppose this research, and insisted that even as he had come to a different conclusion those opinions deserved full respect. He explained that the American government has not only a role but a responsibility to keep the country at the forefront of medical science. But he also made clear that his decision was not made based on his belief in science alone: "As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering."
The President said that a false choice has often been presented between science and faith, and that corrupting, shielding, or shying away from the facts science lays bare benefits nobody:
That is why today, I am also signing a Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making. To ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.
Read the Executive Order here, and the Presidential Memorandum here. One of the President’s closing notes was to pay homage to those who dedicated so much of their time and energy, often in their last days when both were short, to the cause of allowing this research to see its full potential:
As we restore our commitment to science, and resume funding for promising stem cell research, we owe a debt of gratitude to so many tireless advocates, some of whom are with us today, many of whom are not. Today, we honor all those whose names we don’t know, who organized, and raised awareness, and kept on fighting – even when it was too late for them, or for the people they love. And we honor those we know, who used their influence to help others and bring attention to this cause – people like Christopher and Dana Reeve, who we wish could be here to see this moment.
The President shakes hands with Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, who was paralyzed at the age of 16: