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Public Papers - 1989 - December

Remarks to the AIDS Research Staff at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland

1989-12-22

Thank you all very much. I'm so very proud to be accompanied here and introduced here by Lou Sullivan. Barbara is, too. A little historical Trivial Pursuit: Bar used to be on the Morehouse School of Medicine Board, working for a slave driver named Lou Sullivan. [Laughter] And so, it's fitting that they be sitting side by side.

To Under Secretary Horner, if she is here, and Dr. Mason and Dr. Raub, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Broder and Dr. Decker and Dr. Rall and Dr. Bick and Dr. Goodwin -- [laughter] -- Dr. Lenfant, Dr. Alexander, and whoever is left out, all the rest of you: I am delighted, I mean it, really pleased, and so is Barbara, to be here.

This morning, let me just say a word about another area before I just make a few comments on your work, your wonderful work. I am sure that your hearts and minds are with our kids, our brave soldiers in Panama, so let me just say a quick word about that. As I said yesterday, all human life is precious. We're all children of a loving God, and we sorrow at the casualties in Panama. But we know that nothing is more crucial to peace on Earth than freedom and democracy. And that's what our American soldiers are achieving: freedom and human liberty for those who have endured brutal tyranny and brutal oppression.

And this weekend, Americans will begin our traditional holiday celebration. And it is a time of rest and reflection and, most of all, of family. And while America stops to catch its breath from the dramatic events of 1989, I assure you that through these holidays we will not forget our brave soldiers down there and their families. We will continue to do what is necessary to help the people of Panama achieve the democratic society that they voted for and that they so rightfully deserve.

In these last days before Christmas, I did want to stop by here and salute what you are doing in biomedical research -- the best, the very finest, all of you. For here, too, in your way, you are standing for decency. You're helping to improve the health of millions of Americans. And even more, like those soldiers in Panama, those heroes, you're giving the greatest gift imaginable: the gift of life. And nowhere is this gift more evident than in your work to combat AIDS. And it's that which I'd briefly like to talk about today. For only together can we wage all-out war against this terrible killer.

Two years ago in this very building, I met a person with AIDS who spoke of his prolonged suffering. And I've just come from two more meetings -- one with a patients' support group and the other, a family support group -- and both reminded me of the need for compassion and understanding. And by that, I mean the compassion that moves us to care for all those infected with the HIV, men and women, adults and children. And we must help them. And you, you above all, are doing just exactly that. And I want you to know, I am with you and extraordinarily grateful for what you are doing. And by understanding, I mean educating, educating Americans who don't want to help, don't want to become involved because of a misplaced fear. They're afraid of holding an AIDS patient because they're frightened of getting AIDS. Barbara and I want to say -- and we hope we can continue to demonstrate this: They are wrong. They're simply uninformed. They are wrong about that.

A few minutes ago, we were in a room full of kids with AIDS, and you could just feel the courage and character of the doctors and the nurses and the parents and the counselors. And being with them, I thought of how there is no reason to fear for your health, just their health. And I want to thank those who are not afraid, especially foster parents who have opened their homes and their hearts, and those of you here today who do so much for so many.

And my good friend, Dr. Lou Sullivan, our Secretary -- it's appropriate that he be here with us today. He knows about compassion and understanding. And so do other great men and women of science and medicine. I think of our Assistant Secretary, Dr. James Mason, or Dr. William Raub, the Acting Director of NIH, who greeted us here; Doctor Fauci, who is still embarrassed, I think, that I singled him out in the last year as a hero, but he is; and Dr. Sam Broder and Robert Gallo, Dr. Antonia Novello, the Surgeon-General-designate. Each of these dedicated scientists preaches compassion and understanding, as do others involved in treatment and research activities on AIDS at the NIH Clinical Center, from doctors and nurses to chaplains and social workers, from teachers to dietitians. For example, the clinical pathology staff, the diagnostic radiology staff, the nuclear medicine staff -- you are attacking the scourge of AIDS, and so are the laboratory scientists engaged primarily in AIDS-related basic research -- all of the dedicated employees throughout all the institutions here.

You know, there is a lot of talk about AIDS today. And I hear those who say we have far to go. And, yes, they're right, but I would also add: Look how far we've come. And look at the advances in vaccine development and early therapeutic intervention. Look at the recently reported success of a vaccine in animals or clinical studies which show how AZT can retard the disease in infected individuals. Look at the treatment to prevent the onset of PCP, the pneumonia that infects large numbers of AIDS patients and often, regrettably, leads to death. Where did these advances stem from? They're rooted in the biomedical research conducted and supported by NIH. And they show the value of your commitment, and I commend that commitment. They stem from your work which makes America proud.

Too often, we speak of compassion and understanding only in this time of year, the Christmas season. You embody it, and you live it all year round. And too often we forget the true message of this time of year. It's that justice and kindness can indeed foster good will toward all.

You know that message. You live that message. And for that, I thank you. And I want to wish you and your families a warm and happy holiday season. God bless you and those you are working so hard to save. And God bless the United States of America. And Merry Christmas to all. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:34 p.m. in the Clinical Center. Prior to his remarks, the President attended an AIDS family support group meeting. Following his remarks, the President and Mrs. Bush traveled to Camp David, MD, for the Christmas holidays.

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