Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by First Lady Jill Biden in a Virtual Visit to the National Cancer Institute on World Cancer Day
Thank you, Dr. Sharpless. Ned, we are so grateful to have an accomplished researcher, academic, inventor, physician, and author at the head of our nation’s premier cancer research institution. Thank you for your leadership.
And Dr. Collins, thank you for joining us today, as well, and for your years of service at NIH—in three Administrations now. And on behalf of both the President and me, I also want to thank you and the NIH for helping to create the vaccines and treatments that are going to save so many lives and help our nation recover. We are lucky to have you.
It’s a pleasure to visit the National Cancer Institute – virtually – today.
I’m grateful to be coming to you from the White House today, as your First Lady. It’s the honor of a lifetime—but I know that even more than that, it is a responsibility to serve the American people.
From coast to coast, we face so many diverse and complicated challenges, and yet, when I was Second Lady and in my travels across the country over the last few years, I’ve seen again and again that there is one challenge that unites us all. One thread of pain that runs through every community, North and South, rich and poor, in the best of times and the depths of this pandemic: cancer.
The first time I heard the diagnosis for someone I loved, I was in my early 40s. And the year it happened, not one, but four of my friends found out they had breast cancer.
Cancer took the lives of both my parents.
My sister had to have an auto-stem cell transplant.
And then there was our son.
Cancer touches us all. And because of that, your work touches us all.
You have brought the Cancer Moonshot to where it is today. You’ve dedicated years to studying our immune systems and supporting clinical trials. You’ve lifted up community-based clinics and treatment research. You’ve led breakthroughs and discovered new ways to test.
And though this last year has been difficult, NCI has risen to meet the challenge, uncovering how this pandemic has affected rates and figuring out how to continue this work—because cancer doesn’t stop for COVID.
For more than 50 years, this organization has pioneered this frontier. Thanks to you, countless lives have been saved. Countless families are whole. And there is more hope than ever for every person who is touched by this disease.
So, on behalf of the President and me, thank you. On behalf of every family who has faced cancer and a very grateful nation, thank you. We are so proud of everything you are doing here.
And now, I’m excited to learn more about that work, so let me pass it back to Ned.
Thank you, Ned. And thank you to everyone who shared today.
Now, you know I’m a professor of English and Writing, so I want to end with a little poetry today.
The poet Gwendolyn Brooks—another life lost to cancer—wrote:
We are each other’s harvest:
we are each other’s business:
we are each other’s magnitude and bond.
Cancer can be such a lonely journey—for patients and the people who care for and love them. But they aren’t alone. You are fighting for them every day. You are making our world a better, brighter, healthier place. And your legacy is the lives you save and the families you protect. Because we are each other’s harvest—each other’s magnitude and bond.
I want you to know that the President and I stand with you. This is the fight of our lives, and we will never stop working to end this disease. And together, I know we will go farther than ever before.