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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 12, 2006
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 2006 Mission Conference
Crystal Gateway Marriott
10:31 A.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Thank you, Nancy, for inspiring women around the world in the fight against breast cancer, and especially for inspiring me. Nancy has been a very good friend of mine from those very early days when George and I moved to Dallas, and I then worked on the Susan G. Komen fundraiser, the big fundraiser that was a luncheon in Dallas that Nancy did every year. And I always chose to be the invitations chairman, because she had already sold the luncheon out. (Laughter.) So all you had to do was just address the invitations to the people who had already said they were coming to the luncheon. (Laughter.) It was a lot of fun. It was -- a lot of women would come to my house, we'd have lunch and gossip and talk and write invitations. So Nancy, you've come a long way, and you've really brought American women a long way. So thank you so much. (Applause.)
I want to recognize Dina Powell, the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy. Thank you very much for your part in this. And Dr. Edward Miller, the Chief Executive Officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine, which will be part of this partnership. Dr. Gabriel Hortobagyi, the Director of Breast Cancer Research at MD Anderson, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where another President Bush, President Bush number 41 has been the President of MD Anderson's board. Delegates from Saudi Arabia and from the United Arab Emirates, thank you very, very much for joining us today. (Applause.)
I also want to thank the doctors, the researchers, the advocates and the breast cancer survivors who are with us today. Thank you all very much for coming.
I'm delighted to be here for the Susan G. Komen Foundation's 2006 Mission Conference. When Nancy started the Foundation 24 years ago, in honor of her sister Susan Komen, who had died with breast cancer, breast cancer was a taboo subject. Women didn't talk about it. If you happened to contract breast cancer, you were too embarrassed to tell anyone. Everyone kept it a secret. And because it was a secret, women weren't aware of what they could do to take charge of their own health for early detection. Women weren't aware that they needed to have a regular mammography. They didn't do breast self-exams; no one told them to, no one mentioned it. And so when breast cancer was discovered, it was in many cases too late. The disease was too far along, and as all of us know still, early detection is the closest we have to a cure.
But since then, the Komen Foundation has done extraordinary work to raise breast cancer awareness. Everyone in the United States knows that the pink ribbon is a sign of breast cancer. Nancy, actually -- singlehandedly, I'll have to say -- was the one who brought breast cancer attention, breast cancer awareness to the women of the United States.
In 1983, the first Race for the Cure, which was in Dallas, drew 800 people. Today, there are 114 races worldwide -- and more than a million people run in those Races for the Cure. (Applause.) And I mentioned how, in those Foundation early days, we addressed those envelopes and stamped those envelopes to get people involved. But now, because of the Komen Foundation, 678 million envelopes in America have carried a breast cancer stamp, earning almost $48 million for research. (Applause.)
As any survivor will tell you, these efforts have yielded more than impressive statistics. Their true significance is found in the patients who no longer have to suffer with breast cancer, afraid and alone. It's found in the women who, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, go on group outings to get mammograms; or the families, mothers and sisters and daughters, who go together in October to have their mammogram; and it's found in every loved one who's survived because of early detection -- people like my mother, Jenna Welch.
The progress we've made in the United States is exciting. But too many women around the world are still too embarrassed or too uninformed to seek the treatment they need in time to save their lives.
Eradicating breast cancer is a challenge for every country, but one part of the world where this challenge carries special urgency is in the Middle East. Reports suggest that cases of breast cancer in the Middle East are increasing dramatically. And it's not just women who are devastated by breast cancer, but whole families -- families who feel an emptiness that the love of a wife, a daughter, a sister, or a mother once filled.
Some promising research is already being done. With the help of Sheika Fatima and Johns Hopkins, the UAE is developing an Oncology Center of Excellence that will include a women's breast cancer center. And in Saudi Arabia, Dr. Suad Bin Amer -- who's here with us today -- started the Breast Cancer Research Unit at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital. Like Nancy Brinker, Dr. Suad was inspired by a patient she loved -- her mother.
Throughout the Middle East, the commitment to ending breast cancer is already present. What this region has lacked are partnerships that allow governments, hospitals, researchers, and survivors to work with each other and to join the global effort to defeat breast cancer.
So today, I'm delighted to announce the U.S.-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research. This program -- organized by the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy and the Middle East Partnership Initiative -- will unite the Susan G. Komen Foundation, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins Medicine, the United Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. (Applause.)
Together, these partners will develop awareness campaigns suited to each country; they'll increase research, training and community-outreach efforts; and help women build the knowledge and the confidence they need to be in charge of their own health. Discussions are already underway to expand the partnership to Morocco and Jordan.
This is the first major women's health campaign in the Middle East, and the United States is proud to be a part of it. The pain of losing a loved one to breast cancer -- and the joy of seeing a loved one triumph over it -- are universal. By confronting the challenge of breast cancer together, this partnership -- which represents the very best kind of public diplomacy -- will also help build lasting friendships between our countries. Most important, this partnership will help women throughout the Middle East find hope in a life free from breast cancer. (Applause.)
I've seen this hope in a breast cancer survivor I met at Komen Italia. Marisa Giannini, in 1998, at the age of 46, discovered she had breast cancer. She was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. A mother of two, Marisa was determined to defeat the disease. She underwent a successful mastectomy, joined Komen Italia, and pledged to do everything she could to help other women survive breast cancer.
Marisa found the perfect opportunity to contribute through her career with the Italian Postal Service, where she's currently head of the Stamp Distribution Division. Inspired in part by the success of the Komen stamp here in the United States, Marisa convinced the Postal Service to issue a breast cancer stamp in Italy. Since 2002, Marisa's stamp has raised more than $1 million for breast cancer research and treatment, extending the hope of survival to many more women throughout Italy.
Thanks to this new partnership today, and your ongoing work, millions of women like Marisa who are diagnosed with breast cancer will find courage and hope. Thank you so much for supporting them, and thank you for inspiring all of us through your commitment to defeat breast cancer. Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)
END 10:41 A.M. EDT