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Remarks by the President in Meeting with Bioethics Committee

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
January 17, 2002
The Roosevelt Room

3:55 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: It's nice to see everybody.

PARTICIPANT: We're very pleased to be here.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad you're here. First, let me just say a couple of comments. One, I think -- let me thank Leon for taking on the assignment. I appreciate so very much Leon's counsel early on in my administration about how to deal with some very important issues. And then, obviously, I made the decision to put together a council and I want to thank you all for serving.

I just told NBC News in there that I really think you can help be the conscience of the country; to help us understand some really, really difficult issues that face America and will really face us as we go down the road. And what a vital, vital contribution that you're going to make. It'll help people like me understand what the terms mean and how to come to grips with how medicine and science interface with the dignity of the issue of life and the dignity of life, and the notion that life is -- you know, that there is a Creator.

This is, I think, one of these historic moments for our country, as we come to grips with a new world and how to deal with the new world. And I hope you take this -- I know you take this seriously and I just want to assure you I take it seriously. And so does this administration. We all have consciences and we wrestle with very tough issues. And there's no easy answer to some of the issues. It's hard to look at a parent of a child who's dying and believes if you take life it will save a life. I mean, these are tough, tough issues to confront.

And I've confronted one already and there will be others. And I look forward to your advice and counsel. And so does the nation -- it's not just me, it's the country, that's going to count on you to really think through what we face.

And not only that, it will serve the world, because we're now in a unique position. I don't want to be megalomaniac about my views, but we're leading -- we're leading on a lot of fronts. And this is another front in which this country can lead. Because I can assure you that other leaders are looking at it. I've talked to them and they don't know what to do, they're wrestling with decisions. And when America makes up her mind to do something, a lot of people listen. So this is a huge forum.

So thanks for taking it on. And I want to thank Leon for his leadership. And I want to thank Tommy for being here. And Dr. Marburger. And I'll be glad to listen, answer questions. I'm not sure what we ought to do, Leon, but first you ought to say something.

DR. KASS: Well, I just want to say very briefly, Mr. President -- and I think I speak for every member of council -- to say how grateful we are for your vision to see the importance of these questions. You made this the subject of your first prime time address to the nation. And while other, more important things have supervened, you have given this kind of visibility that the subject deserves and you've given us a great privilege to try to be helpful to you and the nation. And, indeed, as you say, to the world through you and the nation in wrestling with these most important questions.

I thought since you were gracious enough to spend some time with us, that we might use it well by simply asking various members of council, speaking as individuals. We've just met and we don't have a collective voice, but maybe they could say something about the kinds of issues that they think are important and that you and we all need to be thinking about.

THE PRESIDENT: Let me say two other things and then I will listen. One, you need to monitor the stem cell issue. That was the charge I gave on national TV that day, and I forgot to mention that. And the other thing is that I have spoken clearly on cloning. I just don't think it's right. On the other hand, there is going to be a lot of nuance and subtlety to the issue, I presume. And I think this is very important for you all to help the nation understand what this means. And with that, I'd be glad to hear folks.



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