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Al Gore's heart and soul, protecting our children from the dangers of smoking

Until I draw my last breath, I will pour my heart and soul into the
cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking.

-- Al Gore, 1996.

Today we are fighting in Iraq for the right to smoke.

Some of the most powerful forces that do the most harm are often hard
to see and even harder to understand. When I was a child, my family
was attacked by an invisible force that was then considered harmless.
My sister Nancy was older than me. There were only the two of us and I
loved her more than life itself. She started smoking when she was 13
years old. The connection between smoking and lung cancer had not yet
been established but years later the cigarettes had taken their toll.

It hurt very badly to watch her savaged by that terrible disease. Her
husband, Frank, and all of us who loved her so much, tried to get her
to stop smoking. Of course she should have, but she couldn't.

When she was 45, she had a lung removed. A year later, the disease had
come back and she returned to the hospital. We all took turns staying
with her. One day I was called to come quickly because things had
taken a turn for the worse.

By then, her pain was nearly unbearable, and as a result, they used
very powerful painkillers. And eventually it got so bad they had to
use such heavy doses that she could barely retain consciousness. We
sometimes didn't know if she could hear what we were saying or
recognize us.

But when I responded to that call and walked into the hospital room
that day, as soon as I turned the corner - someone said, "Al's here" -
she looked up, and from out of that haze her eyes focused intensely
right at me. She couldn't speak, but I felt clearly I knew she was
forming a question: "Do you bring me hope?"

All of us had tried to find whatever new treatment or new approach
might help, but all I could do was to say back to her with all the
gentleness in my heart, "I love you." And then I knelt by her bed and
held her hand. And in a very short time her breathing became labored
and then she breathed her last breath.

Tomorrow morning another 13-year-old girl will start smoking. I love
her, too. Three thousand young people in America will start smoking
tomorrow. One thousand of them will die a death not unlike my
sister's, and that is why, until I draw my last breath, I will pour my
heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the
dangers of smoking.

1996 Al Gore Democratic Convention Speech, 1996.

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