The Change We Need, But Whither Stem Cells?

| Wed Jun. 4, 2008 12:50 PM EDT

Barack Obama's speech last night was a changemaker, an oratory sweep full of grand pledges. And while he touched on most of the big issues with the promise of a strong agenda:

The economy, "the struggles facing working families can't be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving a the middle-class a tax break."

Foreign policy, "I won't stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what's not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years - especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored."

Health care, "[we need a] health care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it and brings down premiums for every family who needs it."

Energy policy, "[we need] an energy policy that works with automakers to raise fuel standards, and makes corporations pay for their pollution, and oil companies invest their record profits in a clean energy future - an energy policy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced."

Education, "we owe it to our children to invest in early childhood education; to recruit an army of new teachers and give them better pay and more support; to finally decide that in this global economy, the chance to get a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American."

Conspicuously absent were some of the third-rail issues that will need to be reckoned with in his plans for change:

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Guns, abortion, gay marriage, these are hot-button dividers, but they're also areas where the Bush administration has waged its own change agenda, leaving us with irresponsible gun policies, anti-gay marriage statutes in 45 states, and Roe in serious jeopardy, in no part helped by Bush's appointments to the Supreme Court. No doubt Obama will speak to these issues in debates and speeches to come, and we'll see how he handles them as he tries to woo moderate and conservative voters.

Another topic untouched, perhaps surprisingly, was stem cells. Polls consistently show that a majority of Americans (and half of evangelicals) support even embryonic stem cell research. Bush's ban on federal funding into new lines of embryonic stem cells has set science back 7 years and counting, and while private and state funding has elevated the research a federal change must come to ensure advances. And just think, Obama can reference Nancy Reagan as an ally for change in this arena. Two degrees from the Gipper, believe it.