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Joe Biden may have left office, but the former vice president plans to continue to work with the new administration to reach his goal of eradicating the threat of cancer.
“It’s my hope that this new administration, once it gets organized — and I’m not being facetious — will be able to focus on, be as committed and enthusiastic as we were” on ending cancer, he told a rapt crowd Sunday at SXSW in Austin, Texas. “I will do everything in my power to work with the new administration.”
Fighting cancer has been a key issue for Biden since he lost his son, Beau, to the disease in 2015. He announced plans for his Cancer Moonshot in October 2015 when he revealed that he was not planning a run for president. After leaving office at the end of January, Biden unveiled plans for the Biden Foundation, which will focus on advancing cancer research, helping military families and preventing violence against women.
Biden’s talk at SXSW shed more light on how he plans to continue his fight against the disease. First, his wife, Jill, introduced him by talking about the need for action. “All of us have something to contribute,” she said. “You don’t have to be a doctor or a nurse or a researcher to feel that you can make a difference.”
Two lengthy standing ovations preceded Biden’s turn at the microphone. During his impassioned speech, Biden detailed how Cancer Moonshot developed from an off-hand comment he made to then-President Barack Obama. Biden recalled telling Obama that he would have “loved to have been the president who presided over the end of cancer as we know it.”
Not long after, Obama approached him about doing more. “To my surprise, at the State of the Union he announced to the world that I was going to be quote ‘mission control’ in the Cancer Moonshot,” said Biden.
The theme of Biden’s speech was that new medical technologies and treatments such as immunotherapy and blood biopsies will be critical to turning cancer into a preventable disease.
He also discussed prevention options, including living a healthy lifestyle, avoiding cancer-risk behaviors like smoking and having access to clean air and clean water — at which point he took a dig at President Donald Trump’s administration for denying climate change, saying “it frustrates me.”
It was clear that Biden had chosen SXSW as the venue to deliver his speech because of its reputation for bringing together technological, scientific and creative professionals.
“You’re the future,” he said. “Many of you are developing technologies and innovations for purposes large and small, fun and serious, entertaining and life-saving.”
Calling upon the audience to take action, Biden continued: “You can make a gigantic impact. We need your ingenuity. You can have a profound impact on cancer. We need you to help us reach people who need to change their behavior and avoid cancer.”
He also pointed out that technological expertise has not been well-used in the fight against cancer. “I can take my cellphone and find out exactly what movie is playing here or anywhere in the country tonight and what times there are. If I can track a check I wrote and know exactly when it was cashed, why can’t I do some of the things that need to be done in this fight?” he asked.
Biden, whom Obama awarded with a Presidential Medal of Freedom just days before leaving office, signed with CAA in February with plans to use the agency’s support to further his public policy work. His appearance at SXSW, part of the daylong programming track Connect to End Cancer, came one year after Obama became the first sitting president to speak at the annual conference.
Biden ended his speech with a passionate directive. “I am unwilling to postpone for one day longer the things we can do now to extend people’s lives, and so should you be,” he said in reference to President John F. Kennedy’s famous line about putting a man on the moon. “We can make an enormous, enormous, enormous progress.”
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