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tv   Steve Gleason Receives Congressional Gold Medal  CSPAN  January 15, 2020 3:11pm-4:02pm EST

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1230, directs me to report that it has come to no resolution thereon. the speaker pro tempore: the chair of the committee of the whole house on the state of the union reports that the has had under consideration h.r. 1230 and has come to no resolution thereon. pursuant to clause 12-a of rule 1, the chair declares the house
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i want everyone to ponder on the words of rosa parks whose statue lies right there. when she said, each person must live their life as a model for others. ms. richardson: steve, it is without a doubt --
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mr. richmond: steve is without a doubt a stellar role model for others in this world. from the founding of the gleason initiative foundation, the teen gleason house for innovative living, and his effort to help pass legislation allowing alcs patients to access speech -- a.l.s. patients to access speech generating devices and advanced wheelchairs is exactly why the steven michael gleason congressional gold medal act passed unanimously. those of us in this room know that most creativity and innovation comes from times of despair. and even when life may take us down paths that we did not expect nor forsee. instead of living a life of despair, you decided to take the path less traveled. through your investment in breakthrough technology that has allowed others with a.l.s. to live more sustainable lives. i am constantly inspired and reminded of the wisdom of nelson mandela when he said,
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may your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. steve's life choices serve as a reminder to all of us what happens not only when we walk by faith and hope, but also what bold and courageous leadership looks like. steve and michelle, today you are joining an illustrious list of american heroes and sheroes, all trail blazers who have displayed core values of commitment, excellence and service to others. your impact has already been made felt by your family, friends, fans and strangers alike. to america you're lauded as a hero, but to new orleans and the rest of louisiana, you're forever a saint. congratulations on making history with your congressional gold medals and to all remember, no white flags.
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thank you and congratulations. [applause] announcer: ladies and gentlemen, the honorable bill cassidy, united states senator rom louisiana. mr. cassidy: i want to thank senators, congresspeople and from my office, james, alison and blake. and thanks to michelle and river and gray for their role in this journey. we know steve's story. blocked a punt. first game the saints had back in new orleans after hurricane katrina. it was more than a great play. it was a statement that new orleans and louisiana, the gulf coast, was coming back. it became a symbol, if you
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will, of hope. fast forward five years later and steve is diagnosed with a.l.s. but instead of living in depression and despair, steve adopts the motto, no white flags. launches an effort to fight a.l.s. through the team gleason foundation. since, team gleason has facilitated collaborative research efforts to find the causes and cures of a.l.s. he's worked with microsoft to develop hardware and software to preserve the voice of the a.l.s. patient, which congress has made available to those with a.l.s. through the steve gleason enduring voices act, and team gleason has provided $10 million of direct service to over 15,000 a.l.s. patients. in the a.l.s. community, steve gleason is a rock star. he gives hope, even for those who have a.l.s. and if there was ever a disease
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to cause hopelessness and despair, it is a.l.s. a theologian said, though, to resist despair, we must live vitally and to live vitally means to live with great intentionality. steve lives with intentionality and vitality. and in this he teaches us. if someone is spiritually and emotionally paralyzed, believing that life has no meaning, steve is paralyzed by disease but lives with great meaning. if someone thinks that the end-all is to live independently and for one's self, as steve has become more dependent, he lived and lives more for others. and if someone believes that the only way to make a difference is through strength and ability, as steve has weakened, he makes a greater difference than most of the strong and powerful ever will. previous congressional gold
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include jackie robinson, mother teresa, people whose accomplishments transcended their own immediate circumstances and changed society for us all. steve is the first person honored precisely because he has a disability. because of how he lives with disability. and his life serves and changes not just those who he and team gleason directly touches, but through his example in how he lives, he changes life for us all. if the definition of a hero is someone who takes a terrible situation and makes it better for everyone, that is steve gleason. thank you, steve, for inspiring hope, even in the face of extreme adversity. and for demonstrating how to live. thank you for being a hero. [applause]
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announcer: ladies and gentlemen, the honorable steve scalise, republican whip of the united states house of representatives. from the first district of louisiana. mr. scalise: welcome, everyone. especially steve gleason, michelle, the whole family, all of our friends from new orleans, and everybody who has rooted for what steve gleason represents. i was in the superdome with my wife, jennifer, the first game that the saints returned to new orleans after the destruction of hurricane katrina. at the time, i was serving in the louisiana state house and i was on the appropriations committee and just months before we had voted to spend over $300 million to rebuild the superdome. surprisingly, it was actually a controversial vote. at the time.
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some were saying, how can you spend money on a sports arena when people aren't even in their homes? i know you all remember that. but for most of us, we knew that if the saints did come back, it would encourage others to come back and come back to new orleans they did. so the saints returned to the superdome was already a very emotional night for the strong and resilient people of new orleans. but when steve gleason blocked the atlanta falcons punt and the ball was recovered for the first touchdown that night, the announcers did not need to say a word. they just let the crowd roar and r oombings ar we did -- roar we did. that blocked punt at the same site as some of the most horrible days of post-katrina gave us hope. the comeback of new orleans was punctuated by the action by steve gleason. we built a statue of him in front of the superdome titled,
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rebirth. gale benson, would you and your beloved late husband, tom, did to bring the saints back to new orleans gave us hope. drew brees, what you and your fellow teammates did, both on and off the field, gave us hope. steve gleason, what you did that night gave us hope, but you continue to inspire people to this day. not just because of what did you on the football field -- you did on the football field, but because of what you do now through team gleason to help others with diseases like a.l.s. to achieve their full potential. and of course you are the perfect personification of your motto, no white flags. through the steve gleason act, which was talked about already, steve helped permanently secure access to speech generating devices for people with a.l.s. literally giving voice back to the voils. think about this. he already had his device that he worked with microsoft to develop. incredible american-made
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technology that gives people a voice. but there was a change in federal policy that stopped funding for those devices for other people. steve didn't just sit back and say, i've already got mine, he actually took the lead to champion the effort to change law. it took an act of congress, you've heard that saying. that's what we do up here. so we got to work. inspired by steve gleason. and we passed an act of congress called the steve gleason act so now everybody with those same debilitating diseases will not lose their voice either. and so thank you, steve, for the leadership that you took to make that happen. steve has an incredible gift for inspiration. for the people and the cities who need it most. when he blocked that punt in new orleans, there was not a dry eye in the superdome. my wife, jennifer, and i can attest to that. but those were tears of joy. steve inspired us that night and he continues to inspire us every single day in his fight against a.l.s.
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i'm proud to call steve gleason my friend, and i can't think of anyone who deserves the congressional gold medal more than steve. congratulations, to you -- congratulations to you, my friend. [applause] announcer: ladies and gentlemen, the honorable patty murray, assistant democratic leader of the united states senate, from washington. ms. murray: as a voice here in congress for the great state of washington, i am very honored to congratulate steve gleason on being awarded the congressional gold medal. they don't just give these out, you know. the congressional gold medal is awarded only to the most uncommon people who show incredible bravery, dedication
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and determination to advance their fields, their country and all humankind. steve is undoubtedly an uncommon person. from an early age, he was an uncommon athlete. in high school in spo can, steve won back-to-back league m.v.p. awards playing football. and went on to play both football and baseball at washington state university, my -- mater, go cugs, to help cougs, to help lead the cougars first rose bowl in first rose years. then you heard steve showed uncommon persistence in the nfl, helping new orleans heal after the devastation of hurricane katrina and bringing hope back to a city that had been through so much, as perfectly demonstrated in that iconic blocked punt during the saints' first game back in the superdome. and when steve was diagnosed
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th a.l.s. in 2011, he showed uncommon bravery, sinnist -- insisting there would be no white flags. and he would not only fight the disease, but push for all people living with a.l.s. to thrive. since 2011, steve has raised awareness about a.l.s. and championed research efforts to improve the lives of others who are living with the disease. and time and time again, he has displayed the uncommon hope, perseverance, strength and kindness that gives -- makes him sufficient a worthy recipient of the congressional gold medal. as the result of steve and team gleason's dedication, today people with a.l.s. is -- a.l.s. are more independent than ever, thanks to cutting-eng speech and movement technology steve pushed for and helped to innovate. and beyond his tremendous advocacy work, steve has shown that no matter the challenge or
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obstacle, with we refuse to give up, there's nothing we cannot overcome. washington state could not be more proud of steve. because he is not just an unc'mon, man, he is an unseparation to all of us. and i'm so proud to be here today to help celebrate this outstanding national recognition. thank you, steve. and thank you to michelle and gale and the entire team gleason for all of your work to fight a.l.s. and exemplify what it means to never give up. congratulations, steve. this is a richly deserved honor. [applause] announcer: ladies and gentlemen, mr. ben snyder of ord heron. river winds :
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on through i'm going to see where it leads who lives in mountains and that no man has mounted i'm going to stand on the peak after the land the time don't command anta be the first to ride no time to ponder and why i'm wandering to the ends of earth would you follow me
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the world that was meant for our eyes to see to the ends of the earth would you follow me there's an island where all things are silent i'm gonna whistle a tune oh there's a desert that size can't be measured i'm gonna count all the dunes out there's a world that calls
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for me girl headen out into the unknown well if there are strangers and all kinds of danger please don't say i'm going alone to the ends of the earth would you follow me there's a world that was meant for our eyes to see to the ends of the earth want you follow me ♪y [applause] announcer: ladies and
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gentlemen, the honorable kevin mccarthy, republican leader of the united states house of representatives. . mr. mccarthy: good afternoon. it's an honor to be here. not from louisiana and i'm not from washington. [laughter] i'm just a great admirer. it's an honor to be here to present steve gleason with the congressional gold medal. an award as storied, significant and special as any trophy in professional sports. it takes a rare combination of character and grit to be presented congressional's top award for service. less than 200 americans have received the congressional gold medal. that is far fewer than the presidential medal of freedom. that makes steve a member of an elite group, an all-pro team, some can say. the first individual to receive this award was general george washington. today the first professional football player to win it grew
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up in the state of washington. i think steve has a lot in common with the father of our country. like washington, steve never quits and he inspires others to fight for a cause greater than yourself. president washington once said the harder the conflict, the greater the triumph. i'm sure steve, you'd tell us the same. a.l.s. is a very difficult condition. it's a cruel disease that paralyzes the body. but those fighting a.l.s. surely want us to know that this condition cannot take away their fighting spirit. it will never diminish their will and determination. and though finding a cure may be difficult, the difficulty will only make the triumph of discovering one all the greater. and what this incredible organization, team gleason, steve is leading the charge to making a difference in the lives of thousands of americans
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who are fighting a.l.s. i imagine there are moments when the goal can seem unattainable. but remember this, independence seemed like a distant dream in 1776. when washington's army had not won a single battle against the british, washington refused to wave the white flag. with courage and confidence in his soldiers, he surprised the haitians at the battle of trenton, giving the american cause a pivotal victory. i often find inspiration from washington's grit in the early years of the revolution. that is why i have a painting of him crossing the delaware hanl hanging in my office. i think it captures a moment in time that tells as many fundamental truths about what it means to be an american. steve shares with washington an ability to overcome adversity. his motto, no white flags.
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emphasizes that life's limitations cannot hold someone back from achieving their full potential. he deserves this award for all the hope he has created in the lives of others. earlier i said the congressional gold medal is like a sports trophy. in fact, it's a lot like the lombardi trophy, the m.v.p. and a super bowl ring all rolled up into one. like a super bowl ring, it is unique. steve's award was specially made and features him in his saints jersey, trees in the background to pay homage to his home state. like the m.v.p. award, it recognizes outstanding long-term accomplishments. steve has raised awareness about a.l.s. through his foundation for eight seasons and counting. his work funds groundbreaking research and provides invaluable speech technology to a.l.s. patients. allowing them to communicate with their loved ones and
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retain independence. and like the lombardi trophy, it can't be won without teamwork. steve has an incredible team sitting right with him right today. beside him,my sell, and amazing -- michelle, and amazing family. this award goes to them as well. steve, on behalf of a proud and grateful nation, thank you for all you do for individuals with a.l.s. you have set an amazing example of dignity, courage and perseverance for all americans. may god continue to bless you. simply put, the world is a better place because of you. congress is proud, the nation is proud, and we thank you and bless you for your life, for your work, and most importantly, your strength and courage. god bless. [applause]
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announcer: ladies and gentlemen, the honorable charles e. schumer, democratic leader of the united states senate. mr. schumer: thank you to speaker pelosi, leader mcconnell, leader mccarthy, and so many others, including the great drew brees. now i'm told today's drew's birthday. i wouldn't recommend that anyone celebrate their birthday visiting congress. [laughter] but, drew, we're more than happy you have to. seriously, it's an honor. to join with all of you today. to celebrate the extraordinary steve gleason by awarding him the congressional gold medal. only 163 people have ever received this honor. george washington, nelson now, a, mother teresa and steve gleason. now rebirth. that's the name on the statue outside the superdome in new orleans, showing steve's famous blocked punt against atlanta.
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of course, that famous play did more than just swing the momentum to the saints against the rival falcons. that play inspired hope in a city beset by tragedy. after such devastation, it gave everyone reason to cheer. but today we're not here to honor steve for his heroics on football field. but to recognize his truly heroic life off the field. a life spent helping those who struggle with a.l.s. and other degenerative diseases experience a rebirth of their own. i know the disease. my dearest uncle mort, a well-known obstetrician in new york, struggled with a.l.s. for three years before he passed. as many as 30,000 people have a.l.s. in the united states. half of those affected die
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within three years of diagnosis. it can strike anyone at any time. which is what happened to steve. in the face of a disease so awful, a stroke of fate so cruel for such an active person , steve could have simply cursed the darkness. many of us would have simply asked, why me? but instead of cursing the darkness, steve chose to light a candle. he chose to inspire and help others who are braving a.l.s. just like he is. as steve himself has said, most people with a.l.s. don't have the resources to rebuild their lives on their own. but thax to -- thanks to the work of team gleason, thousands of patients now have access to groundbreaking technology that helps restore dignity to their lives and in 2018, as a result of his advocacy, the steve
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gleason act was signed into law granting better access to speech generating devices to americans with diseases like a.l. is. helping these patients until the day when, god willing, we find a cure. 10 years after katrina, a few organizations wanted to put together a retrospective, so they asked prominent rent residents of new orleans to write -- residents of new orleans to write letters to their city. let me close an example of what steve wrote. wrote, like this city's levees in 2005, my invincible body has failed me. but like the residents of the city built five feet below sea level, i chose to be an idealist. when the world sees tragedy, idealists see opportunity. when the world folds its hands, idealists double down. when the world retreats,
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idealists reinvent. maniacal steadfast, idealists, so steve wrote. our country could use a few more idealists. and our world could use a few more steve gleasons. today we honor the one we have with us. congratulations, steve. god bless you and your family. [applause] announcer: ladies and gentlemen, the honorable mitch mcconnell, republican leader of he united states senate. mr. mcconnell: well, of course when we think of steve gleason,
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we're transported back to the uperdome on that monday night. as others have noted, theapic blocked punt was -- that epic blocked punt was a redemptive moment for the entire city. steve didn't single-handedly rebuild new orleans that night. but every single american knew t that moment the big easy was coming back. who could have predicted that? steve grew up in spokane. he went undrafted. -- undrafted in the nfl. what if he hadn't snuck into the saints' practice squad? what a remind that are god has plans for each of us -- reminder that god has plans for each of us that we never could have imagined. to block a punt, you have to put your body on the line.
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you may not even get the glory of running the ball into the end zone yourself. but your extraordinary effort puts everyone around you in a etter position to succeed. and of course that's what steve gleason is still doing every single day. one of the paradoxes in medicine is that medical issues are so personal and so private and yet progress requires awareness. it takes awareness to develop technology to help people live their lives to the fullest. it takes awareness to find cures. it takes people like steve and families like the gleasons who are willing to be open about their challenges and carry the torch. after all, it was another famous athlete, lou gehrig,
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whose battle with a.l.s. introduced the public to this illness. so i don't think any of us will be shocked at future generations who look back and think, how fitting that it was another great athlete and american hero who changed the course of this disease for so many and ultimately helped to end it. we know steve is a practicing catholic and the catholic tradition emphasizes asking for prayers and for help from the saints. [laughter] it emphasizes that we are not alone. others are rooting for us. the saints have paved the way. steve, that's just what you mean to so many people. you're paving the way, your cheering them on -- you're
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cheering them on. they've got their saint, all right. number 37. to be precise. so, steve, your congress thanks you, your country thanks you, it's an honor to present you this medal and place you in this historic company where you belong. [applause] announcer: ladies and gentlemen, the honorable nancy pelosi, speaker of the house of representatives. ms. pelosi: it is my honor to join our distinguished leadership of the congress of the united states, the louisiana delegation, the washington state delegation, for this very special event. and i want to thank each and every one of you for being here to make it even extra special. for all of us. especially for steve.
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i want to acknowledge drew brees. i know it's your birthday, but i understand it's also baylon's birthday today. happy birthday to you. you share a birthday with martin luther king. today as i he's birthday as well. happy birthday to you. we're honored that you're in the capitol to share your birthday. welcome to the commissioner, roger goodell. mr. commissioner, thank you for being here. gale benson, thank you so much, the benson family contribution to sports in america. and i'm especially pleased to welcome former commissioner, paul, and his wife, shannon, who are here, and he's just been selected, i guess, is the word to be in the football hall of fame. congratulations. [applause] while we were coming in here, i met the family, three little boys, they traveled 16 hours from mississippi, they just
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recently lost their father, little boys, welcome to all of you as well. and thank you for making the effort to be here. and also recognize all of our ests from the nfl and also steve's fellow hoodats from new orleans. any fellow hoodats from new orleans? [applause] it's an honor -- it's fitting that we honor steve gleason in statuary hall. this pantheon of patriots. where great americans are immortalized in marble and bronze. in addition to the heroes that we have here today, i would ke to acknowledge addi bargain, who has taught many of us in congress about the challenges of a.l.s. he too is a father with young children. these stories are so, so compelling and the fact that steve gleason has made life
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better for so many people, he's a great american whose very name is synonymous with hope. the hope restored to the city devastated by hurricane katrina. i won't go into the football plays because they've been appropriately addressed. the hope you give to those living with a.l.s. and to their families. and the hope that you instill in all of our hearts as you have turned adversity into opportunity. as you have said, from adversity, heroes are born. and you are truly one of them. for nine years steve has lived each day in a tribute to his motto, no white flags. his refusal to surrender his fight has helped thousands of people win theirs. in a fight against a disease that robs people of their speech, steve has helped give so many back their voices. it's really important to know how grateful we should be to steve. thank you, steve, for providing cutting-edge equipment to tens
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of thousands with neuro muscular diseases or injuries. thank you for ensuring passage of key laws, to ensure access to speech generating devices for those living with a.l. is. thank you for developing eye tracking technology for those who are paralyzed. and thank you for mobilizing the largest a.l.s. research project for people living with a.l.s. are front and center of the action. of course steve's most beautiful achievements are rivers and gray. and we are thrilled that rivers is with us today. hi, rivers. [laughter] we're also touched by the beautiful video journals that steve has recorded for his children which will serve as an immortal reminder of his boundless love. steve's story reminds us that we are all just one accident, one incident, one diagnosis,
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life one call away from changing situations. and needing quality, affordable health care. all americans have the right to health care, including technologies, equipment and care services that help them live happy, healthy and meaningful lives. you are making that possible. sometimes i too am a catholic and, as you know, faith, hope, charity. people ask me, where is hope? i say, hope is where it always has been. sitting right there between faith and charity. faith, that steve has, and sitting between that, faith, hope and the goodness of others. and truly steve's faith and goodness have given many people hope. hope in a better few fur for -- future for those with a.l.s. and those struggling in the face of adversity. as steve has said in his words, if we have a purpose in life
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beyond being a cog in the human machine gun, mine is to help inspire -- machine, mine is to help inspire people. i would like to motivate the world. and indeed you have. steve, you have indeed motivated the world. congratulations on this award. it was a symbol of your courage and the courage of all who refused to give up or give in to adversity. and now it is time for us to present the congressional gold medal to steve gleason. steve, come forward. [applause]
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[applause] cheers and applause]
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announcer: ladies and gentlemen, mr. steven michael gleason. mr. gleason: hi there, everyone. thank you, speaker pelosi, leaders mcconnell, schumer and mccarthy, senators cassidy and murray, representatives richmond and scalise, and all
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members of congress. also, thank you for coming to d.c. and speaking today. just so everyone knows, today is drew's birthday. [laughter] so, drew, let me wish you a , y capital happy birthday brother. this award from elected officials who represent the people of the united states of for me. s an honor but i feel that more importantly, i feel that this honor represents some joy and encouragement for the tens of thousand of extraordinary families currently living life with a.l.s. also, the millions of extraordinary people in this country living with
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disabilities or other ills and of you dly, all ordinary humans who experience adversity, tragedy or of you an. no one is immune from anguish, tragedy or adversity. not even elected official. -- officials, nfl players, or even the most holy saints. i suppose i don't see my story as a football story or even an a.l.s. story. but rather i view my story -- the truth is that we all experience pain in our lives. but i believe that the problems we face are our opportunity and define our human purpose. i believe that adversity is our opportunity to keep exploring,
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because we will all face pain and tragedy, but it's clear to me that beyond the human capacity of imagination, our greatest strength as a species has been our ability to bravely share our weaknesses and vulnerabilities with each other. doing that, we're able to understand each other's issues and collaborate together to solve problems and overcome any bstacle. while sharing one's weaknesses may not be common practice for people, especially for politicians in an election my , wink-wink, sharing weaknesses -- weakness was entirely critical for me to to play eight years in the nfl. and it has been unquestionably critical to my survival and purpose for the past nine
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years, living with a disease as dreadfully beautiful as a.l.s. i'm grateful to the literally thousands of people who have directly uplifted me, both emotionally and physically in my 42 years. most importantly, i'm grateful to my parents for instilling in me many of the values i've used to be successful. and, of course, my wife, michelle. this is not the life we imagined and it hasn't been easy. but through communication and compassion, we're carving out n awesome existence. in addition to having the understanding that i had to share my weaknesses to survive and succeed, i'm fortunate to have the motivation and reason
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to live. our son, rivers, and our daughter, gray. they give me purpose. the purpose of a lifetime. some of you may disagree, but i believe there has been no greater time in history to be a human. at the same time i don't think anyone here or anyone watching will disagree that we as a country and, more appropriately,s with 'a global species face enormous challenges in the coming decades of the 21st century. challenges like exploring and colonizing other planets or solving climate change or the challenges of genetically engineering superhumans or positively harnessing the seemingly miraculous power of artificial intelligence so people's disabilities are
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turned into superabilities. these challenges provide us with an exponential opportunity s americans and as humans. because if we can keep exploring, share our weaknesses with each other, and compassion atly collaborate to solve problems, our human potential is boundless. if we can work to understand and solve each other's problems and each other's pain, compassion atly, then truly all things are possible. thank you again to the people of the united states of america, a nation i'm so proud to live in, for this unbelievable honor. ave a wonderful day. cheers and applause]
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announcer: ladies and gentlemen, mr. drew brees. there are significant moments in our lives that we remember. both tragedy and triumph. we remember exactly where we were and the emotions that we felt.
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we all remember where we were on 9/11. and the pain, shock and anger that ensued. many of us remember february 7, 2010, when the saints won super bowl xliv. cheers and applause] and the sheer elation which accompanied that moment. was also one 1, of those moments. i was riding on our team bus having just arrived in seattle to play the seahawks in a wild card playoff game. i was sitting in the first row as i always did with assistant head coach joe next to me and head coach sean directly across the aisle. i texted my wife to let her know we had landed safely and
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then noticed an email pop up from steve gleason. three minutes later three minutes later, with tears rolling down my face, i looked at joe in the seat next to me and choked, steve gleason has been diagnosed with a.l.s. we were both in a state of shock. numb to the core. of all the people on this earth, steve is the last person tover deserve something like this. this is not fair. his is not fair. steve was as blunt and raw and honest as he could be in that email, detailing his diagnosis but also acknowledging that he was scared and frustrated. but at the end, steve said, and i quote, i promise to fight and
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believe and expect the extraordinary. and love laugh and cry our lives for every breath that remains in my body. please, please help me do that. until i'm 109. [laughter] i'm betting on you, steve. for the 13 years i have known steve, if i were to sum up his attitude, his tenacity, his mantra, it would be, it's not a matter of if we will accomplish the goal, it's only when. it's not a matter of if he will block the punt, it's when. it's not a matter of if the saints will win the super bowl, it's when. it's not a matter of if we will develop technology and innovation to improve the quality of life for a.l.s.
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patients, it's when. it's not a matter of if we will create legislation to ensure better care for all those suffering from neuromuscular diseases, it's when. we t's not a matter of if find a cure for a.l.s. >> the u.s. house has been in recess but the chamber is gaveling back in now, live coverage on c-span. for further consideration of h.r. 1230. would the gentleman from texas, mr. cuellar, kindly resume the chair. the chair:


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