As I write this, I am sitting in a very special place: the Wall of Hope that has been constructed by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network on The Mall in Washington as part of our Celebration on the Hill 2006.
The Wall of Hope is more than a piece of construction. It represents the sentiments of thousands of Americans who have signed on to the commitment to reduce the burden and suffering from cancer.
But nothing says it better than the sign that is placed at one of the entrances on 7th Street:
“This monument serves as the voice of millions of Americans whose lives have been affected by cancer. Relay for Life expresses the hope that those lost to cancer never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported and that one day cancer will be eliminated.”
If you have any doubts about Americans’ commitment to share in the American Society’s mission to reduce the burden and suffering from cancer, you should be in Washington DC today.
A literal army of volunteers has come here from across the country to speak with a single voice, to support the Society’s mission, and to make their requests heard in our country’s capital.
The downtown hotels and streets are filled with people decked out in purple and blue shirts whose enthusiasm is high and commitment is palpable.
They have come to Washington to meet each other, share their stories of hope and courage, and to persuade our elected representatives that they must do more to continue support of our efforts to reduce the threat of cancer to our citizens and to the world.
There are some very specific “asks” as part of this Celebration:
- Support the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which provides breast and cervical cancer screenings to low income, uninsured women in the United States. Current funding allows the program to reach only one in five eligible women.
- Increase research funding by at least five percent annually for the National Cancer Institute to sustain our progress in life-saving research.
- Congressman and Senators need to sign the ACS Cancer Action Network Congressional Cancer Promise, which outlines specific legislative actions that will put the fight against cancer back on track by:
- Increasing research funding
How are we accomplishing these tasks on this special day in Washington?
The Celebration on the Hill includes 10,000 cancer advocates. 4000 of those folks are Ambassadors, and they come form every part of this country, and from every walk of life.
They are meeting with their congressman and senators to deliver the message, and their legislators are coming to them to make their commitments.
Last evening, we heard from several of them, including Senators Obama and Harkin, as well as former Speaker Newt Gingrich.
All gave stirring talks that resonated with the crowd. All are committed to the fight against cancer.
Senator Harkin’s comments were particularly poignant, recounting that of six brothers and sisters, only two are alive today. The other four have died from cancer.
Speaker Gingrich had the message of the day when he told us that when a legislator says there is no money to support increases in funding for cancer research, the response is a direct look in the eye with the rsponse that we need to spend our funds on saving lives, not building more bridges to nowhere.
So here we are at the beginning of what undoubtedly will be a very exciting and memorable day that will last well into the evening hours.
As I sit here writing this, surrounded by the banners that tell the stories of survivorship and commitment, and the wishes of all those who, over the past many months, have signed the banners that make up the Wall of Hope, I can’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed by the emotions and thoughts that those simple messages represent.
We are here to make a statement, we are here because of our commitment, and we will be heard.
During the day I will be posting additional blogs recounting some of the day’s activities.
If you want to see more about what is happening, we have postings on the internet at www.celebrationonthehill.org.