Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke Amendments of 1965

October 06, 1965

Secretary Gardner, Members of Congress, distinguished health leaders, members of the press:

Before this year is gone, over a million productive citizens will have been killed by three murderous diseases. Seven out of ten Americans who lose their lives this year will be the victims of heart disease or cancer or stroke.

Now these are not dry statistics; these are deadly facts whose anguish touches every single family in this land of ours.

This year, in this Nation, at least 25 million people are going to be crippled by heart ailment.

More than 2 million citizens are survivors of strokes.

The economic cost of this death and disease is staggering beyond one's imagination--an estimated $45 billion last year alone; more than $4 billion annually just in direct medical expenses.

And the cost in human agony is far too great to ever tell.

With these grim facts in mind, and at the insistence of that lovely lady, Mrs. Mary Lasker, I appointed a commission to recommend national action to reduce the toll of these killer diseases.

"Unless we do better," I said to the commission, "two-thirds of all Americans now living will suffer or die from heart disease or cancer or stroke." And further speaking to the commission, I said, "I expect you to do something about this."

Well, they did something. And that is why I have asked you to come here this morning.

One of the world's great surgeons and teachers, Dr. Michael DeBakey of Houston, Texas, headed this commission. Their report last December set forth a series of extremely bold and daring proposals--the seed which will grow and flower into a much healthier America.

Chairman Lister Hill, that warrior of so many health battles, and Oren Harris, the chairman of the House committee, met with us, applied their talents, lent their support to this dedicated effort to do something in this field. So did men who have given their lives to the health program in this country, like John Fogarty particularly, who gets every dollar he can and channels it into this field, Bill Springer, who compliments us this morning with his presence. And then the careful deliberation of both committees of both Houses produced this measure--the heart disease, cancer, and stroke measure of 1965.

Its goal is simple: to speed the miracles of medical research from the laboratory to the bedside.

Our method of reaching that goal is simple, too. Through grants to establish regional programs among our medical schools and clinical research institutes, we will unite our Nation's health resources. We will speed communication between the researcher and the student and the practicing physician.

Our Nation desperately now needs more medical personnel. Under this act, we will make the best use of existing medical personnel in these critical diseases, and then we will start improving the training of other specialists.

Our Nation desperately needs better medical facilities and better medical equipment. And under this program we will get them-and we will use them--to help the victims of these killer diseases.

Our Nation desperately needs to help physicians and health personnel continue their education. This act will make that help possible.

We cannot close the dark corridor of pain through which sufferers must pass. But we can do all that is humanly possible to increase the knowledge about these diseases--to lessen the suffering and to reduce the waste of human lives.

It has been written: "Men who are occupied in the restoration of health to other men are above all the great of the earth. They even partake of divinity, since to preserve and renew is almost as noble as to create."

That is true of our great doctors--our great doctors whose healing hands are going to give meaning to this act that you farsighted legislators have carved. But I think it is true of others, too. I think it is true of all the citizens who have worked for this measure. And it is particularly true--I want to say to Senator Mansfield and the other members of the leadership of both parties-it is particularly true of this fabulous 89th Congress.

There is no partisanship in educating the child or preserving his health, and this Congress has demonstrated that. You in the Congress have given us more than leadership: you have given our people a gift of hope--hope for a much longer and a much happier life, not just for ourselves, but for all the little ones that look up with their trusting faces and expect us to do right by them.

We have so many things to be thankful for this morning as we meet here in this historic East Room where Abigail Adams used to hang out her washing, where Theodore Roosevelt gave his daughter away, and where people came to pay their last respects to Abraham Lincoln and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.


Just before I sign this bill, or while I'm signing it, I am going to ask you to take an extra 5 minutes--and it won't be longer than that--to hear a message from a great man who wears a great name. The name of Rusk is revered in this country, and Howard Rusk is always where the doctors need him, in brain and heart and soul.

He has just come back from Viet-Nam, and he sat here last night with 150 tycoons from business and talked to them about the health problems out there. I am going to ask him, while I'm unpacking these pens and trying to get this thing started, to come up here and just talk frankly to you about our problem, because I have an airplane on the way, going out there this morning at his request.

Dr. Howard Rusk.

[At this point Dr. Rusk addressed the group. The President then resumed speaking.]

I am going to ask Dr. Rusk and those associated with him to meet with Members of the House, and particularly with the Senate group that is planning to visit Viet-Nam, Senator Kennedy and the others, on the refugee problem, so that we can work very closely together, because I know your deep interest in that field.

Again, I want to thank all you Members of Congress who are here this morning-Senator Prouty and Senator Mansfield, Congressman Fogarty and Mr. Springer, Senator Hill and Chairman Harris, and others of you who have contributed to helping make this day possible.

I congratulate all of you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:03 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to John W. Gardner, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

During his remarks the President referred to Mrs. Albert D. (Mary) Lasker, cofounder of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation for medical research, Dr. Michael E. DeBakey of Houston, Tex., former Chairman of the President's Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke, Senator Lister Hill of Alabama, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, Representative Oren Harris of Arkansas, Chairman of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Representative John E. Fogarty of Rhode Island, Representative William L. Springer of Illinois, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, majority leader of the Senate, Dr. Howard Rusk, Director of the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, New York University, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Senator Winston L. Prouty of Vermont.

As enacted, the Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke Amendments of 1965 is Public Law 89-239 (79 Stat. 926).

For the President's remarks of December 9, 1964, upon receiving the report of the President's Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke, see 196364 volume, this series, book II, Item 798.

In his remarks Dr. Rusk described his recent visit to Viet-Nam in September to observe the health and welfare needs of the population and to study what was being done by the volunteer agencies and by the U.S. military to alleviate conditions there and to improve understanding on a people-to-people basis. He reported on the living conditions of Vietnamese orphans, students, and disabled veterans, and he announced that President Johnson had ordered an airplane to bring Vietnamese amputees to the United States for training and rehabilitation.

Dr. Rusk revealed that the U.S. aid program had distributed 1 1/2 million books to Vietnamese children who would have schoolbooks for the first time in their history. The text of his remarks is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. r, p. 371). See also Item 469.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke Amendments of 1965 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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