Former Vice President Joe Biden addressed a large crowd of Pelotonia riders and volunteers in the cancer research fundraiser 2017 opening ceremonies at McFerson Commons outside Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus Friday night.
Biden talked of the “first hand experience” he and his wife have had in coping with the death of their son, Beau, who succumbed to cancer in May 2015.
“Our son, Beau, was the finest (of) men I’ve ever known, but you’d expect a dad to say that,” Biden said. “But I think anybody (who) knows him including Rob (Portman) and the governor (John Kasich) would tell you he was a fine, fine man.”
He said those with cancer have incredible courage to fight the disease, and to hold onto hope during struggles because of the growing research out there today.
“(Cancer patients) held out hope because they know the incredible progress that’s being made,” Biden said. “Because we know what you know; we’re on the cusp of so many potential breakthroughs.”
Biden said in Beau’s case, the cancer outran the cure. “But that doesn’t mean that there are other Beau Bidens who can’t be cured. It doesn’t mean there aren’t hundreds of thousands of people who won’t win the race that Beau was not able to win.”
The former vice president compared today’s fight to that of Richard Nixon in the 70s, when he committed to fight cancer. But Biden said Nixon had no army to help him diminish the disease; at the time there was thought to be only one distinct type of cancer.
Biden said the fight is better than ever, citing 204 distinct forms of cancer known to researchers.
He said after 46 years of progress, new science and funding, “We now have an army. We now have powerful new tools that did not exist then.”
Biden stressed the importance of cancer research,the direct beneficiary of Pelotonia fundraising, throughout his speech. He said it’s on everyone to fight and fund the fight against cancer to support research because it furthers the fight against cancer.
Of the progress made in recent efforts, Biden said increasing the accessibility of clinical trials was huge. “You just go online now (and) you can find out any clinical trial that’s available to you in your region,” he said.
Biden also recognized the increased availability of cancer patient care for veterans. “We’ve made it easier and faster and more reliable for patients at the Veteran’s Administration hospital — the largest hospital in the world.
Biden said contrary to the popular belief that Republicans and Democrats dislike each other, he’s worked with Republicans for a long time.
“There’s a lot of us working together,” he said.
“At the end of the last session of Congress, we were told we wouldn’t get any funding. I had an idea: 21st Century Cures Act. It was $6.9 billion. They said we couldn’t get it done,” Biden said.
“We started out with only about 130 House members and 50 Senate members. With a couple days left to go, it passed with 388 House members.”
Biden noted the bipartisan effort continued after his term in the White House.
“Then the new guy in town came along and said we’re going to cut $6 billion. Guess what the Republican Congress did? They said ‘Like hell we are. We’re adding two billion more,’” Biden said.
He said America must take advantage of the bipartisan effort to combat cancer.
“There’s not one single time in American history we’ve set our minds to something that we have not been able to solve.”
Ethan Zohn, former Survivor winner, former professional soccer player and 2017 Pelotonia rider said sharing research and information on cancer as a partnership is crucial to beating the disease. “(Pelotonia) is an alliance.”
Zohn reflected on his time battling the disease. He said it took several attempts to rid his body of a rare blood lymphoma.
“There were times that I felt like my whole body had turned against me,” he said. “I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. My hair was falling out.”
After going into remission, the cancer’s return 20 months later was deflating for Zohn.
“I was pissed off … I didn’t want to die,” he said.
Zohn said a newly researched pill saved him.
“Do you know what a miracle looks like to cancer patients? It looks like successful research and new drugs,” he said.
Biden’s wife Jill Biden, Pelotonia CEO Doug Ulman and 10 TV news anchor Tracy Townsend — herself a cancer survivor — all spoke, noting the efforts taking place in Pelotonia are crucial for cancer research, and will someday help to end the disease.
The bike race begins Saturday and runs through Sunday. It has over 15,000 participants riding 5, 45, 55, 100, 135 and 180 miles, or support those that do.
“I and you are unwilling to postpone any longer. Whatever it takes to beat this damn disease, it’s within our power, it’s within our capacity,” Biden said to end his speech. “So have faith, keep it going. I promise you: we will beat this disease.”