Richard Nixon photo

Remarks on Signing the National Cancer Act of 1971

December 23, 1971

Members of the Senate, Members of the House, ladies and gentlemen:

We are here today for the purpose of signing the cancer act of 1971. I hope that in the years ahead that we may look back on this day and this action as being the most significant action taken during this Administration. It could be, because when we consider what cancer does each year in the United States, we find that more people each year die of cancer in the United States than all the Americans who lost their lives in World War II.

This shows us what is at stake. It tells us why I sent a message to the Congress the first of this year, which provided for a national commitment for the conquest of cancer, to attempt to find a cure.

Now, with the cooperation of the Congress, with the cooperation of many of the people in this room, we have set up a procedure for the purpose of making a total national commitment. I am not going to go into the details of that procedure, except to say this: As a result of what has been done, as a result of the action which will come into being as a result of signing this bill, the Congress is totally committed to provide the funds that are necessary, whatever is necessary, for the conquest of cancer. The President is totally committed--we have a Presidential panel headed by Benno Schmidt, which will report directly to the President so that the President's influence, whenever necessary, can be used to reach this great goal.

And, in addition to that, all of the agencies of government, the National Institutes of Health, HEW, et cetera, are totally committed.

Now, having said that, I have spoken exclusively of government up to this point. In this room are scores of people who have worked voluntarily for this cause for many, many years. The American Cancer Society, of course, is the best known organization, but there are many others as well.

In saying that there will be a Presidential commitment, in saying that there will be a Congressional commitment, a government commitment, I should emphasize that a total national commitment means more than government. It means all the voluntary activities must also continue. We have to realize that only one-sixth of everything that is produced in America is produced by what government does. Five-sixths of what we do in America is produced by what people do in their voluntary and cooperative capacities.

So, we need the continued cooperation of all the volunteer organizations. You will have, of course, the total commitment of government, and that is what the signing of this bill now does.

Finally I should emphasize, as Benno Schmidt mentioned just a moment ago, that we would not want to raise false hopes by simply the signing of an act, but we can say this: That for those who have cancer and who are looking for success in this field, they at least can have the assurance that everything that can be done by government, everything that can be done by voluntary agencies in this great, powerful, rich country, now will be done and that will give some hope, and we hope those hopes will not be disappointed.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, for those of you who have not participated in signing ceremonies--and that, of course, does not include the Members of the House and Senate who are here; I see that many of them have been here previously--the custom is always to sign with the Presidential pen. I will use two pens for the signature, but a souvenir pen will be available to everybody in the audience here. We had to stretch a little to find that many, but we did it.

Incidentally, it is a very good pen, but the box is worth more than the pen.

[At this point, President Nixon signed the act. He then resumed speaking.]

Benno, you get the "Richard." Dr. Letton, if you will step forward--the president of the American Cancer Society-you get the last name.

Note: The President spoke at 12 noon in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Dr. A. Hamblin Letton's response is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 7, P. 1711).

As enacted, the bill (S. 1828) is Public Law 92-218 (85 Stat. 778).

On the same day, the White House released an announcement of the signing and a fact sheet on the provisions of the act.

An announcement of the appointment of Benno C. Schmidt as Chairman of the President's Cancer Panel was also released on December 23, 1971, and is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 7, P. 1712).

Richard Nixon, Remarks on Signing the National Cancer Act of 1971 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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