The link between West Wing and Biden’s address

Viewers notice remarkable similarity to a plan set out by Martin Sheen’s character in long-running political drama

Peony Hirwani
Thursday 29 April 2021 06:07 BST
Joe Biden says US has power to ‘end cancer’

In one of the key moments during his first address to a joint session of Congress, president Joe Biden announced his plans for a push to “end cancer”.

It included a call for the National Institute of Health [NIH] to create a new agency dedicated to advanced research projects for health.

Fans of The West Wing were quick to draw comparisons to a speech made by Martin Sheen’s character in the series, president Jed Bartlet.

In one episode of the series that ran from 1999 to 2006, Bartlet said: “I will bring the full resources of the federal government and the full reach of my office to this fundamental goal: we will cure cancer by the end of this decade.”

And it was suggested that on Wednesday Mr Biden struck a similar tone to Bartlet during his speech.

He said: “I can think of no more worthy investment. And I know of nothing that is more bipartisan.

“Let’s end cancer as we know it. It’s within our power.”

Joe Biden and The West Wing: Space Travel and Cancer

This also isn’t the first time a Biden speech has drawn The West Wing comparisons.

During a 2015 interview from 60 Minutes, Mr Biden said something remarkably similar to a Bartlet quote from the100,000 Airplanes episode of the series.

Mr Biden told the programme: “I am confident if we make the decision that John Kennedy made of going to the moon, and we said we are going to cure cancer within the next several years, we can do that. That’s how close it is.”

And here’s the Bartlet version: “The president stood up, he said we will land a man on the moon before the end of the decade, so why shouldn’t I stand up and say we are going to cure cancer in 10 years.”

Mr Biden’s youngest son Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015, and during his speech the 46th president went out of his way to thank Republican Mitch McConnell for his bipartisan support passing a cancer bill at the end of the Obama presidency.

He said: “I’ll still never forget when we passed the cancer proposal in the last year I was vice president, almost $9m going to NIH.

“And if you excuse the point of personal privilege, I’ll never forget you standing, Mitch, and saying, name it after my deceased son. It meant a lot,” he said.

He added: “But so many of us have deceased sons, daughters, and relatives who died of cancer. I can think of no more worthy investment.”

That same year in 2016, President Obama himself announced a bold initiative during his final State of the Union address – the aim to “make America the country that cures cancer once and for all”.

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