The following is a guest blog written by my daughter with diabetes, Lauren. Lauren is a junior at George Mason University studying Political Communications. She had an interesting meeting with Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, then the Governor of Massachusetts, a few years back. I hope you’ll read this and — D or R– share it wherever you can. It would be great if Lauren could get him on the record about supporting things like the NIH and other medical research funding. Read on (and add your support in the comments section below — then SHARE!) And please note: D and R can share this — she is not doing anything more than asking him to state a position. The more we share this — on FB or twitter and the like — the more chance we might get his attention. Thanks.
Dear Governor Romney,
I’m sure your life is so busy that you don’t remember our meeting a few years back. But with you now officially the Republican nominee for President, I thought it was right for me to refresh your memory, share my perceptions, and remind you of what you told me you’d do for me.
I was almost 14 years old that summer, and one day when I got home from my swim team practice or tennis team practice, my mother said this:
“The governor’s office called. He’d really like to meet you.”
No offense, Governor Romney, but I really wasn’t into it. First of all, it was summer. I loved the beach, the pool, the tennis courts and my friends, and I didn’t want to miss a moment of it. Second, it’s not like I’d not met powerful elected figures before. I’d already forged my wonderful friendship with Senator Ted Kennedy by then. I’d spoken before Congress earlier that summer. I’d had more meeting with congressmen and others than I could count. I’d been given a national award, the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, by Colin Powell (the reason you wanted to meet with me in the first place).
And no offense, Governor Romney, but you’d not exactly won me over with your lack of support for medical research in our state. You see, I might have just been 14: but I knew. My mother had taught me to be an advocate for my own disease – Type 1 Diabetes. So not only did I know you’d not support research, but I’d actually testified before our own state Senate about some of the research you refused to support. I’d read up on it all and learned all I could to be a smart advocate for my cause. So yeah, I was not exactly pumped to meet you. And I begged off.
A few weeks later, my mother sat me down. “Lauren,” she said, “The Governor’s office just called for the third time. Will you please go in and meet with him so we can be done with this?’ I told her she could bribe me with post-meeting fondue at the Parker House and she agreed. So I was in. The following Tuesday, I’d head into Boston to the Statehouse to meet with you. And then go to the Parker House.
It was just my mom and me who went along – we waited in a hallway with another man who’d been invited to meet with you that day. I laughed and felt bad for you because I think that guy brought along everyone he ever knew in life and maybe a few people he met on the way in. Funny!
So my turn came and I was called in a room where you were waiting. I walked up to you and we shook hands. I handed you one of my diabetes walk team T-shirts that says ‘Got Islets?” on the front. This interested you. You looked if over and then said to me, ‘Diabetes. Right. You must be glad to live in a state like Massachusetts where Stem Cell research is allowed.” I blanched. And took a breath. And then decided to just speak my mind.
“Well, yes, Governor,” said, looking back at you. “Except that you vetoed that law and that veto was overridden. You didn’t want it to be allowed here.”
Now I’m pretty sure I took you by surprise. I mean, who would expect a teen girl with a tan and a ponytail to know that? But I did. And frankly, I was kind of shocked that you said that to me in a way that .. . well, that took credit. After all, stem cell research was allowed in my state despite you, not thanks to you. Even I knew that.
You didn’t answer directly and instead asked me about my dreams for the future. I told you that in my career life I wanted to go into public service of some kind. And I told you that in my personal life, I wanted to be cured. I told you I had great hope in federal funding for research and in state support for the same. You told me you did too, and that when I was an adult, I could be sure people like him would be sure such funding had continued to make a difference in my life. You never said the word “promise,” but you talked to me like a man who planned on supporting medical research funding, given the chance.
We took some photos, shook hands again and said good day.
Out in the hallway I relived it with my mother and said, “so he basically just says what the person standing in front of him at that moment wants to hear, right?”
“Well,” my mom said, “He’s not the only one. You just learned a valuable lesson in life and public service. First, never assume the person you are talking to is uneducated about any issue at all, like he did assumed about you. Second, don’t try to pretend you support something that you do not. It’s better to be honest than to try to kiss up, right?”
And then she said something else: “Don’t forget what you two spoke about. You never know what the future will bring.”
And off we went for fondue.
So here I am, Governor Romney. I’m 21 years old now and just like I told you, working toward a life in public service (I’m a junior at George Mason majoring in political communications). In November, I will cast my first presidential election vote and I’m thrilled about that. I still have Type 1 Diabetes and I still want a cure. So, I’m asking you today to honor what you told me you’d do that that day.
Are you prepared to go on the record now as supporting federal funding for diabetes research? Are you prepared to go on the record supporting an administration that does not cut and in fact increases the National Institute of Heath Budget overall? Because to me, that’s what making sure funding is in place to continue to make a difference in my life (and the lives of millions of others) means. I watched your convention speech and I didn’t hear a word about medical research. I’m not just that girl you told you’d support it years ago: I’m a voter now. And I need to know. I want to hear that you if you become president, even if you have to make hard choices, you won’t cut from potentially life-saving medical research programs. I want to her you want our country to be innovators and leaders in cure breakthroughs. I want to hear you will not slow down progress, and in fact you’ll work to speed it up.
I’d really like to look back and think I was just a girl who did not see that you really did care and didn’t try to fool me that day. I’d really like to hear that you want to stick to what you told me that day. I’d really like to be able to say that day missed at the beach was worth way more than some fondue (even if it was good).
I would be happy to meet with you again to discuss funding for research and how you can support it as an elected official. I am in Virginia now – a state you need, right? And am flexible to meet with you (other than my college classes). But I know you are very busy. It would be enough if you just announced that you are committed to research for cures. A lot of us out here really care about it. So let us all know. Let me know.
I look forward to hearing from you, be it personally or just reading about your announced stand on this issue. Oh, and bonus points if you still have my walk shirt. It was a pretty cool shirt, if you ask me.
Diagnosed with T1D at 6, hoping for a cure