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Text of Paterson’s Hadassah speech

The following is the text of a speech that then-New York Lt.-Gov. David Paterson delivered on July 7, 2007, to Hadassah members at the organization’s convention in New York:

Thank you. When you read the current Newsweek magazine, they discuss Hadassah picking New York as the city in which you would hold this convention, and so on behalf of Elliot Spitzer, our new Governor here in New York, we all want to thank you and welcome you, and hope that you enjoy your entire stay right here in New York

Before coming on, I was moved by Ambassador Sallai Meridor, and his four reasons for optimism for the state of Israel, what he termed really would be the perspective and the spirit that makes him feel this way, and it is a pleasure to meet the ambassador and have the ambassador among us this evening. Also – you can clap for the ambassador, it’s all right – also, a friend of mine who 22 years ago after I raised money for one of his opponents, actually picked me to be the new state senator, my great friend Congressman Jerry Nadler. Good evening as well to Ambassador Dennis Ross and your great leadership here and all of you who have made this organization as great as it has been, and of course to your president June Walker and all the work that she has done.

There are a few people who helped me get here and I hope you don’t mind if I thank Ross Wallenstein who is the governor’s liaison for Jewish affairs, who is doing a great job, just started a couple of months ago and it seems like he’s been there a lot longer because of the work he’s done. Also Jeff Weiss, who is the liaison to the Jewish community from the New York state senate minority where I left a few months ago. And also to Carolyn Kantor, a New York director of this organization who worked for us at the senate minority. And to Janice Shurenstein, the president of the Jewish Community Relations Council, and is my ambassador to everywhere.

Now. When I came in this evening, Carol thanked me for coming here this evening and said ‘I understand you cut your vacation short just to be here.’ And many of you might think that that was a real act of some kind of charity, it really wasn’t. You don’t understand. Lieutenant Governors never get invited to such national prestigious organizations as this. And as soon as I heard that, I was out of the Hamptons faster than Jon Corzine I was here immediately.

So. Very few people in this room even knows what the Lieutenant Governor does, and I wish I was one of them. After six months and 15 days I’ve come to this conclusion. You wake up at 6:30 in the morning and you call the governor’s mansion. If he answers, you can go back to sleep.

Many will come before you this week telling you how glad they are to be here but you know that I really am. As a matter of fact, I found out in my third month of duty that they actually have an organization known as the National Lieutenant Governor’s Association. We had a meeting in Washington DC. And I hesitated about going to a meeting with people who must have such morbid fantasies involving plane crashes and criminal convictions. Let me just share with you that before every meeting of the National Lieutenant Governor’s Association, that we have a moment of silence, not for previous lieutenant governors who have gone on to their reward, but to demonstrate to us our true role in government.

(laughter)

Thank you.

At the outset of this great gathering, I would like to honor and give a blessing to the memory of obviously one of the great women of the 20th century, your founder Henrietta Szold. It was a short distance from right where we sit this evening that 95 years ago at Temple Emanuel, that she was able to prevail on an organization, at that point known as The Daughters of Zion Study Center—Circle. And to bring them into the idea of what Ms. Szold termed practical Zion and found Hadassah, the great organization of 300,000 people whose convention is held here this week. Within one year of Ms. Szold’s organization’s beginning, there were already satellite organizations in Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago and Boston Massachusetts. By 1913, Hadassah sent two nurses to Palestine to set up a nursing station to combat pre-natal maternity issues and also traucoma, a dreaded eye disease that was plaguing the Middle East at that particular time. Ten long years and hard work of steadfast discipline, criticism and honesty brought Hadassah to 167 satellite organizations and flaunting 15,000 members by 1923. What this gave to Jewish women in America was a pathway to self and community empowerment from a United States government that founded itself on freedom and justice for all, but for six score years to that point, had systematically discriminated against half of the human race.

When World War II arose Hadassah was there, raising $200 million in war bonds. In 1942, the United States State Department listed Hadassah among the five largest donors for overseas assistance and help. And so, as Hadassah, under the leadership of Ms. Szold continued to flourish, it was known that her greatest achievement to herself, the one for she was most proud, was in 1932 when she became the executive director of Youth Aliyah, an organization that brought children away from what was Nazi fear in Europe to safety in pre-state Israel.

Your organization continues to provide health, education, and other services to disadvantaged Jewish people who live in that area, and it is the reason that Hadassah flourishes among the great organizations of the world that celebrates itself in this convention this – over the next few days. The health maintenance organization of Hadassah has provided care to 1,000,000 people, Muslims as well as Christians and Jews in the state of Israel today, building what is a real bridge, a bridge of the communities here in the United States, a bridge between the United States and Israel, and a bridge even among the fractured communities in the Middle East. And we know that that is needed more than anything in the world today.

Like you, I dream of peace in the Middle East. A dream that would mean safety and integrity for the state of Israel. We will pray for that dream but we will work for it every day in the spirit of Hadassah and in the spirit of the blessed memory of Henrietta Szold. Right here in New York, Henrietta Szold will be admitted to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls later this year. (great applause) If I’d known it would get that response that’s the first thing I would have said. But she will join Clara Barton, Mary Baker Eddy, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and a number of women who fought and suffered and paid so that we could have the kind of equality in this country that our Constitution and Declaration demanded, and it will be extended to all those who didn’t have it at the time, but women among them who have made this country great, and those great inductees and the newest one, have made America even greater.

I would like to close by talking about an issue that is important to you and is important to the governor of the state of New York Elliot Spitzer and I speak of stem cell research. Hadassah nationally has fought and attempted to advocate for the inclusion of stem cell research in this country, and I want to thank your national advocate Shelley Klein for helping us try to make that a reality right here in New York state. It is troubling if not alarming to have read in the July 11th Washington Post that the former surgeon general of the United States, Richard H. Carmona, has now revealed that he was stopped from talking about his views on stem cell research during the national debate of whether or not we should have federal funding when the president first came in to his administration. That Mr. Carmona said in this article that ideology has replaced principle in medical and scientific research. And went on to say that an ignorance of scientific fact has fostered what is an ideological opposition to a need and a service whose time has come.

I didn’t have to tell this organization that Hadassah’s medical facilities have engaged in embryonic stem cell research that has determined that in rats, the injection of embryonic cells can withstand Parkinson’s Disease. In addition, your health medical center has offered viable data that there can be a prevention of macular degeneration through the inclusion of stem cell research and the use of embryonic stem cells in the protocol for patients who are suffering from that form of disease. But unfortunately the Federal administration now in power continues to hoodwink and cajole every attempt at letting scientists determine the nature of medical and scientific research. From August 9, 2001, when President Bush limited stem cell research to only the 22 available lines, all of them contaminated with animal DNA, it has been an uphill battle. And then by vetoing twice legislation passed by the House and Senate that would have provided stem cell research, and who knows what inventions and discoveries, which is what America became great through, the opportunity to go forward not to be recalcitrant, to prosper not to plunder, to go ahead rather than lag behind. We hope that this will act on the Federal level as soon as we can get some kind of leadership that will recognize the value of our best and our brightest scientific research.

But in New York there is good news. We passed legislation earlier this year allowing for $6 hundred million over the next ten years for medical and scientific research in the development of embryonic and all stem cells. The Governor promised that we would have a billion dollars over the next ten years for stem cell research, but we’ve got $6 hundred million right up front because we want to retain our best and our brightest at our medical facilities right here in New York and invite all those who can contribute something to this process to come here, and help us study this needed, needed piece of scientific work.

One of my proudest moments was when the Governor asked me to include stem cell research, along with domestic violence, energy policy, minority and women’s business enterprises, as the areas of which I will lead in this administration. So – (applause) – so the Governor has actually given his Lieutenant Governor something to do, other than sit around with morbid curiosity. And we are proud to announce that we have set up what will be a Board of Ethics that will make sure that this type of research never errs in the direction of any development in the area of human cloning, and also we will set up a funding board, so that we can find the institutions most eligible to fund stem cell research and get that money to them, and we’ll be announcing those members and starting that program within the next couple of months.

And you thought California was good, we’re not even going to have a public referendum. I want to close by thanking June Walker, by thanking all of you who have come to New York, to keep this vibrant organization moving. Every time there is a child that’s in need, every time there’s a community that’s in peril, every time there’s conflict in areas of the world that are at war, every time there is a researcher that is looking for assistance, they will know that Hadassah has not only been a friend but has engendered that kind of work, and that kind of relief, and that kind of help, such that it should be celebrated, not only in New York but in every city that Hadassah has served, which means the entire planet. It’s been a pleasure to be here with you, congratulations, have a great convention!

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