By Rob Andrews
America is at its worst when our national debate stagnates over differences of degree, tactics and personalities. Most citizens would agree that we are currently in such a quagmire. But we are at our best when we focus on great purposes that transform society and transcend politics—uniting the nation and expanding settlement through the construction of a transcontinental railroad, defeating Nazism, and reaching new celestial heights through the Apollo program.
In a second term, President Obama should focus on a similar great purpose: championing cures for the destructive diseases—including dementia, cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS—that have tragically taken the lives of countless friends and neighbors.
Three elements essential for success are present. First, even with the scant resources we have devoted to cures, scientists have constructed some of the key building blocks for breakthroughs, such as the Harvard-Columbia work on the tau protein and its role in the development of Alzheimer's. Second, it is now very inexpensive to obtain vast amounts of working capital at historically low interest rates. Finally, public support for a "cures project" is exceptionally strong among people of all ideologies and backgrounds—independents, Democrats and Republicans.
The mechanics and specifics of how to raise, finance and allocate the funds for cures would need fleshing out. However, before we paralyze ourselves in disputes over the means, a re-elected President Obama should call us together to fulfill a compelling moral purpose, strengthen our lagging economy with a cascade of new industries, companies and jobs, and dramatically improve our fiscal position.
Mr. Andrews is a U.S. congressman from New Jersey.