Would you believe ABC Reporter Sam Donaldson and former US Senator Connie Mack?
Whether you believe it or not they are. I stumbled upon this column from last Friday's St. Petersburg Times. Both Donaldson and Mack doing fundraising for cancer research and the Moffit Cancer Institute in Tampa Florida. There was a fundraiser held for Moffit last night. Sorry I can't put up $600 for dinner. I do give money to the Melanoma Research Foundation however.
Donaldson is a malignant melanoma survivor. Sen. Mack lost a brother to malignant melanoma.(the column doesn't mention this) I'm a melanoma survivor too. Fighting cancer is one of those issues that will bring together people of different philosophies. All we want to do is see research done to fight these dreaded diseases. I'm realistic and know we can't totally beat cancer. However we can improve the odds. The lives saved are worth it.
Open Post- Basil's Blog, Bright & Early, Jo's Cafe,
Sam Donaldson has gone from White House correspondent to cancer advocate, but that doesn't mean he has stopped asking Washington politicians tough questions.
Donaldson, who challenged the press secretaries and presidents of three administrations for ABC News, is now a member of the Moffitt Cancer Center's Board of Advisors. Sam and his wife, Jan Smith, have been active supporters of cancer research since Donaldson was diagnosed with melanoma in 1995.
Naturally, Donaldson wants to see more research and is concerned about budget cuts proposed for the National Institutes of Health. President Bush's proposed budget for NIH would stay flat for the 2007 fiscal year while the National Cancer Institute's budget would be cut by $40-million.
Moffitt receives funding from both institutes.
At the moment, Donaldson says, only 19 percent of peer-reviewed grants that come before the NIH board can be funded. Peer reviewed means a panel of distinguished scientists have deemed the grants promising, but promise doesn't always convert to research dollars.
"They're talking about cutting real dollars," Donaldson said in a telephone interview from his office in Washington, D.C. "I know we've got some budget problems, I know we've got the war in Iraq, but for us not to be able to put money behind the initial source of the cure is ridiculous."
Borrowing from an old British phrase, Donaldson said the failure to fund research is "worse than a crime, it's a blunder." He conceded that some of the grants may not pan out, but until you test the theories, they can't be proven.
Donaldson, 72, still speaks with the same vim and vigor he used in all those press conferences and appearances on ABC's Sunday morning television program. Although he is no longer covering the White House, he does a daily afternoon talk show on ABC News Now, the network's fledgling digital channel.
Ask Donaldson what are the country's most pressing problems, and he breaks it down into foreign affairs and domestic affairs before quickly covering a wide range of topics.
On the foreign side, he believes the United States needs to foster better relationships with other nations and lose its "my way or the highway attitude."
Domestically, Donaldson worries about the nation's racial and economic disparities, and says we need better health care and energy policies.
He's just as enthusiastic talking about Moffitt. When Donaldson was diagnosed with cancer in 1995, a bond formed between him and former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, who called to offer support.
"I had met him, but I had never covered him," Donaldson said. "I wasn't a social friend of his, but he called and said, "Hey, guy, I had what you have and I'm okay. You're going to be just fine."'
After that, Donaldson wedded himself to Mack, whom he called one of our great American public officials. Not surprisingly, when Mack, who lives in Naples, called 31/2 years ago and asked if Donaldson would come and tour Moffitt, Donaldson didn't hesitate.
"I'll do anything for Connie Mack, short of a terrible perversion," Donaldson said.
Now Donaldson is chairman of the advisory board that strives to further Moffitt's mission.
The board also includes NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, golf great Arnold Palmer and Cokie Roberts, the former ABC correspondent Donaldson personally invited to join the cause.
Donaldson, who recently spoke to a group in Naples about Moffitt, said he likes to deliver a message of hope to audiences.
"Cancer is no longer an automatic death sentence," Donaldson said. "I'm not minimizing the fact that it's a deadly disease, but in certain areas there are promises of hope. The odds are you're going to be okay."
On Saturday, Donaldson and his wife will be among the attendees at the Magnolia Ball, Moffitt's annual fundraiser. The ball, which features '80s pop stars Hall & Oates, is one of the biggest social events of the year. At $600 a plate, it's also one of the area's top fundraisers. The group is looking to better its 2005 total of $500,000.
Donaldson said the posh setting at A La Carte Pavilion is impressive.
"It's a fine evening, but it's not like having a beer at Pete's bar," he quipped.
With radio show preparations on the horizon, Donaldson had to end the interview, but I could have talked politics and policy with him all day. He's fun and funny, and thanks to the advancements made in cancer research, he's still with us.
That's all I'm saying.