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Obama 's Remarks on Lifting the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ban

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Obama 's Remarks on Lifting the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ban

Photo of President Obama flanked by doctors and scientists on March 9, 2009: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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Now, this order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let's be clear: Promoting science isn't just about providing resources -- it's also about protecting free and open inquiry.

Freeing Scientists from Coercion, Manipulation

It's about letting scientists like those who are here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it's inconvenient -- especially when it's inconvenient.

It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda -- and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

By doing this, we will ensure America's continued global leadership in scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs. And that is essential not only for our economic prosperity, but for the progress of all humanity.

Policy to Restore Scientific Integrity

And that's why today I'm 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's how we'll 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.

As we restore our commitment to science and expand 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.

Honoring Christopher & Dana Reeve

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.

One of Christopher's friends recalled that he hung a sign on the wall of the exercise room where he did his grueling regimen of physical therapy. And it read: "For everyone who thought I couldn't do it. For everyone who thought I shouldn't do it. For everyone who said it's impossible. See you at the finish line."

Christopher once told a reporter who was interviewing him: If you came back here 10 -- "If you came back here in 10 years, I expect that I'd walk to the door to greet you."

Now, Christopher did not get that chance. But if we pursue this research, maybe one day -- maybe not in our lifetime, or even in our children's lifetime -- but maybe one day, others like Christopher Reeves might.

There's no finish line in the work of science. The race is always with us -- the urgent work of giving substance to hope and answering those many bedside prayers, of seeking a day when words like "terminal" and "incurable" are potentially retired from our vocabulary.

Today, using every resource at our disposal, with renewed determination to lead the world in the discoveries of this new century, we rededicate ourselves to this work.

Before I sign, I want to just note the people who are on the stage with me. In addition to our outstanding Secretary of Energy, Secretary Chu; we also have Dr. Patricia Bath; we have Dr. H. Robert Horvitz; we have Dr. Janet Rowley; Dr. Harold Varmus, who's going to be the co-chair of my President's Council on Science; we've got Dr. Michael Bishop; and we also have Dr. Peter Agre. So these are an example of the outstanding scientists who we hope will guide us through this process in the years to come.

And with them standing beside me, I'd also like to invite some of my colleagues from Congress who have done just such extraordinary work to share in the limelight, because you guys are still going to have some work to do, and -- but it's because of the leadership of so many of you across partisan lines that we've been able to accomplish so much already.

So thank you very much, everybody. Let's go sign this.

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