Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Perry Lauds Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Commends her tireless efforts on behalf of Alzheimer's research.
*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009  •  Speech

Thank you, Ava [Late, Chair, Alzheimer’s Assn. Austin] for that kind introduction and well done on your efforts to sustain the fight against this dreadful disease here in Central Texas.

It’s a pleasure to see Speaker Straus here today. I’ve enjoyed watching you guide that group of movers & shakers through your first session. The fun is really getting started now, isn’t it?

It is no surprise that this luncheon is so well-attended by the movers and shakers in this town. I’m sure some came because you just don’t skip an Ava Lake event, or you wanted to meet a Texas treasure like Justice O’Connor, but I suspect today’s turnout is also driven by the fact that Alzheimer’s touches just about everyone’s life.

Whether you’re dealing with the heartbreak of an immediate family member’s struggles, or have friends who are watching a loved one’s memories disappear into a cloud of pain and confusion, Alzheimer’s is a foe worth our best effort.

I will tell you that I am incredibly proud of my wife and her efforts to increase awareness of this fight and raise resources for a cure.

This is one of those challenges that is very broad in its impact, incredibly complex in its resolution, and still a good ways from being fixed.

Like so many great challenges that our state and our nation have taken on together, this one requires an all-hands-on-deck effort.

The victims of this disease, and their families who bear the brunt of its effects, are fortunate to have an ally on their side like Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Your honor, I have to confess that I have been quoted in the past, expressing my concerns about activist judges. I can tell you this, that there is no issue more deserving or more needful of an activist judge like yourself, than this life-altering disease.

I want to let you know how much I admire you for the grace and strength that you have displayed throughout this tough time, as you have dealt with the ravages of Alzheimer’s in the life of your husband, John.

I also commend you for your willingness to step outside the veil of privacy that every family deserves, to share the details of your struggle, and reveal the human story that is being repeated entirely too often in our world.

When a family is hit by tragedy, our first response is to pull back, and work through it on our own, trading broad support for the loving comfort of family and friends.

By speaking so frankly of Alzheimer’s impact on your life and that of your family, you have encouraged countless families across our country, with the truth that they are not alone, and that hope is a reasonable response.

When a leader of your stature, reputation and gifts reveals the tender details of real life, you not only reassure the rest of us, you motivate us to help.

That is the challenge for the people in this room today. Will we simply agree with the assertion that Alzheimer’s is a life-draining affliction? Or will we do something about it?

Here in Texas, we’ve done a few things for Alzheimer’s. Building on the success of our Alzheimer’s Disease Program, we first funded the Texas Alzheimer’s Research Consortium in 2005.

This partnership of several leading universities has provided for research collaboration as we build toward critical mass.

In 2007, we ramped up our investment in the Consortium which is now conducting research with more than 800 subjects across the state. Their findings are being catalogued at the Texas Alzheimer’s DataBank, based at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Researchers can utilize this growing body of data to answer specific questions about Alzheimer’s as they pursue treatments and a cure.

I also hope that investments from our Emerging Technology Fund can play a role in the quest for a cure. Designed to help move ideas from our university laboratories to the marketplace, this Fund has been closing the funding gap for researchers and drawing additional investment to key areas of discovery.

These are just a few examples of what is happening on the state side here in Texas, but we all know that this effort requires massive private sector involvement as well. You can rest assured that Justice O’Connor and Ava are going to let you know how to get involved.

To that end, I want to thank our special guest for being here. Justice O’Connor: you exemplify those qualities that make Texas women unlike any others. I credit good genes for your superb intellect, your upbringing on a Texas ranch for your unmatched work ethic, and your lifetime devotion to service for your unshakeable grace under pressure.

Woven together with your unparalleled integrity, these characteristics have made you an American icon, a voice demanding our undivided attention, with a life deserving our undying admiration.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice, a tireless advocate for those afflicted by Alzheimer’s, and, most importantly, a cowgirl who has left her mark: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

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