Another wall to tear down

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(Host) Commentator Bill Seamans reflects on the Reagan legacy.

(Seamans) “Mr. Gorbachev – tear down this wall” – thus, in 1987, did President Ronald Reagan challenge the Soviet leader, and the wall came tumbling down. Well that’s the legend – but the facts are that the Wall came down for many reasons, including the efforts of Reagan’s predecessors in the White House and the policies of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Well, now that Mr. Reagan has been elevated to Republican Party Sainthood, the punditocracy – both liberal and conservative – is left to speculate over what historians will write as Reagan’s legacy.

It is the hope of uncounted millions that Reagan’s ten years shrouded in Alzheimer’s will unleash the full scientific power of the nation in the search for a cure. Nancy Reagan has been an outspoken advocate of expanding embryonic stem cell research. Now that her beloved Ronnie is gone, Nancy is freer to speak as a Former First Lady. As time soothes her pain, she is expected to launch a campaign of her own with an appeal that might sound like this: “President Bush, tear down this wall you have built around stem cell research. In the spirit of Ronnie’s legacy, tear down the obstacles created by your executive order limiting federally funded stem cell research. It is the most promising path to a cure for Alzheimer’s so that nevermore will a human being have to suffer ten years in darkness as Ronnie did.” Thus, I hope, Nancy might speak.

Unshackled stem-cell research also might lead to cures for Parkinson’s, diabetes and heart disease – and to a cure for paralyzing spinal cord injuries like those suffered by many of the young G.I.’s President Bush has sent to Iraq.

Now, what greater lesson could President Bush take from President Reagan’s legacy? What greater chapter could Bush add as he writes his own legacy – that he rose above the anti-stem cell research pressure from his conservative political base and joined Nancy to open the way to a possible medical miracle.

Nancy’s call to tear down the wall around stem-cell research has been supported by 58 Senators in a bipartisan letter sent to Bush. But so far the White house is rejecting Nancy’s appeal. Press Secretary Scott McClellan says “the policy remains the same – we are looking for other ways to combat disease.”

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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