As a result of some very special people, Speaker Boehner has chosen to place a special emphasis at this year’s State of the Union address on the effort to fight teen cancer.
The Speaker’s focus is a tribute to a young constituent, Jessica Elam, a graduate of Lakota East High School in Liberty Township, OH, who touched the lives of countless people with her grace and spirit during a 12-year struggle with ependymoma, a rare form of cancer. Jessica’s work is carried on today by her parents, Amy and Jeff; her sister Clara; her classmates and teachers at Lakota East High School, near the Boehners’ home; and the countless individuals she has inspired in and around her community. More on Jessica can be found here and here, and on the Jessica’s Light Facebook page honoring Jessica’s memory.
“This amazing young woman touched the lives of everyone who had the privilege of knowing her, and now her story is touching the lives of many others,” Speaker Boehner said. “As the leaders of our nation gather in the United States Capitol tonight for the State of the Union address, we honor the achievements of Americans like Jessica and her family, who represent the indomitable faith and spirit of the American people.”
The Speaker’s emphasis on teen cancer is also a nod to the remarkable charitable work of Roger Daltrey, founder and lead vocalist of The Who. Daltrey performed in October 2013 at a Statuary Hall ceremony in the U.S. Capitol for the unveiling of a bust of former British prime minister (and honorary U.S. citizen) Winston Churchill. During his visit to the Capitol, Daltrey spoke passionately of his efforts to improve the lives of teenagers and young adults with cancer. More than two decades ago, Daltrey co-founded the remarkably successful Teenage Cancer Trust in the United Kingdom along with Who bandmate Pete Townshend. Daltrey recently co-founded Teen Cancer America in an effort to replicate the Teenage Cancer Trust’s efforts in the United States.
Hoping to help shine a spotlight on Teen Cancer America’s work, Boehner invited its leaders, Rebecca Rothstein and Simon Davies, to be among his honored guests for this year’s State of the Union address. Along with Simon’s wife, Geraldine Lee, they’ll be seated just two rows behind First Lady Michelle Obama at tonight’s address in the U.S. House chamber, in an unmistakable sign of the significance the Speaker hopes to place on Teen Cancer America’s cause.
Touched by Jessica’s story, Ms. Rothstein called Jessica “an extraordinary young woman,” and expressed appreciation for the Speaker’s invitation to the State of the Union address. “This is a great honor for the charity to be recognized in this way, and gives us all hope that our endeavors to improve the lives of these young people whose unique needs have not been fully recognized by our health system will bring about the changes we need,” Ms. Rothstein said.
Teen Cancer America also announced Monday that Daniel Bral, a young survivor of cancer and a student at Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University, has been named chairman of the charity's Young People's Advisory Committee.