Paul Grant Rogers - A Tribute

Read tributes to Mr. Rogers' life and legacy from The Palm Beach Post and The Washington Post. You can leave your own tribute there as well.

Download the program from the Celebration & Thanksgiving of Paul Grant Rogers' Life, October 20, 2008, at the National Cathedral.

To make a donation to Research!America in Mr. Rogers' name, click here.

Paul Grant Rogers - A Tribute
October 20, 2008
Mary Woolley 

 

Becky and Laing, thank you   
so very much  
for the privilege and the honor
of speaking this morning.

In all the years I worked with Paul,
I saw every day that
you were the center of his life,         
and the inspiration of everything he did.

He carried you with him every moment:
I heard in his voice     
and saw on his face   
his deep, devoted, unstinting
love for his family.
Thank you for allowing me to speak
about this great, good, man

Please join me in taking
a deep breath.

And join me in savoring that breath.
We can savor a deep breath of air this morning      
because the air we're breathing is clean.

And we can savor the water we drink,
we can revel in our nation's priceless
lakes and rivers,
because our water is clean.

We can rejoice in the lives of children
who have overcome diagnoses of cancer.

We can celebrate octogenarians
who flourish in ways unthinkable
only a few decades ago.

For all these blessings, and for many more,
we have Paul Grant Rogers to thank.

Paul Rogers, truly "Mr. Health."

I have often introduced Paul
by first calling out a roster of the nation's    
most important legislation:
legislation like
the Clean Air Act
the Clean Water Act
the National Cancer Act
the Act creating the National Institute on Aging.
And at the end of a long list
I would savor the moment
when I astonished the audience
by crediting all these achievements
to one man.

And then I would astonish myself - every time -
because I was privileged to say:
"Please welcome my friend,
Paul Rogers."

How I treasure that gift, Paul's friendship.
Not because it was his nature to withhold himself, or hold himself aloof.
On the contrary, Paul would never dwell for a moment
on his personal role or status.

Paul insisted on the collaborative nature
of his achievements.
It was never, ever, about  him.

He was that most persuasive of leaders.
A leader who diverted attention from himself
into attention to a cause.
A leader who converted honor to himself
into honor for others.
A leader who transformed
a celebration of his achievements
into a clarion call to all within earshot
to join with him,
to join with each other
to make new plans
to embrace the next challenge
to overcome the obstacles
to accomplish the goal.

And for Paul, they were always
astounding goals,
unheard of goals,
goals that would take your breath away.

And always in the interest of the nation,
Always for the public health
Always for the well-being
of all of us, our children
and all generations to come.

Earlier this morning,
I visited another cathedral.
A cathedral much like this one,
a cathedral that soars with
our highest aspirations
to help, to heal, to protect.
A cathedral that comprehends human frailty
even as it strengthens us
in our determination
and in our hope.
This morning I sat quietly
amid the daily comings and goings of
that secular cathedral,
the National Institutes of Health.

I sat on the Paul G. Rogers Plaza,
contemplating the plaque that bears his name.
A simple metal plate
secured on an unobtrusive but immoveable rock,
surrounded by beautiful, fragrant, timeless roses.

I paid tribute to the spirit of this man
Who was tireless, undaunted, indomitable.

He never stopped;  he hardly even paused.

For each new issue, for each new challenge
Paul would throw himself, yet again, into the breach:
"What if we try this?"
"Let's find a way to do that."
"Here's how we get started."
"Let's make some calls."
And then we did start making calls,
to everyone Paul could think of.
And that's a lot of people.
I never heard anyone turn him down.

He was relentless.

I can hear him now
as I heard him so many times,
insisting on the
absolute necessity of research for health.
He would repeat his maxim:  "without research,
there is no hope."
He would say it three times:
"Without research, there is no hope."
"Without RESEARCH, there is no hope."
"Without RESEARCH, there is NO HOPE."

And Paul knew - no one knew better -
that the work of his life
would never end.

If he were to speak to us today,
he would challenge us
to make another goal come true.
He would challenge us to forge
an alliance of leaders
of the new generation.
Young leaders from business,
science, government,
voluntary organizations.
Leaders like his daughter Laing.
Leaders who will carry the call
for research
into the next decades
and into every community,
and out to the world, for the world
for the health of all the people in the world.

If he were to speak to us today,
I believe he would ask
each and every one of us
to urge our Congress to establish
a significant new award.
It would recognize at their finest hour
those dedicated researchers,
often working in teams, who
end the scourge of AIDS
and prevent the heartbreak of Alzheimer's
and banish diabetes and arthritis and heart disease
and bring the war on cancer to its end.

But of course, I am wrong to say "if" he were to speak.
Of course:  he does speak to us today.
Of course: his voice is heard today
as it will be heard tomorrow and next week,
next year, and beyond.

His voice, I believe, will be heard
for as long as anyone in the nation
is willing to set great goals
and willing to take on
the work that everyone else says is
unlikely, impossible,
or just plain too hard.

Whenever there is anyone willing to set goals that
take your breath away
but set your brain racing,
and give you new hope
to accomplish the public good...

Then we can be sure that the voice of Paul Rogers
will be heard -
Speaking for health
Speaking for research
Speaking for new possibilities
Speaking for progress
Speaking for action
Speaking for leadership.

A voice not loud,
or demanding
but insistent,
humane,
inspiring,
indomitable.  

Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.
Abraham Lincoln