November 27, 2019
Former U.S. Navy pilot and Right to Try advocate Matt Bellina was honored with the Goldwater Institute’s Freedom Award at the Goldwater Annual Dinner on November 8, 2019. Below are his dinner remarks as prepared.
Thank you for that introduction and thank you to everyone in this room who has made this a reality. And thank you to my wife and family that continue to keep me moving. I also want to thank a special young man named Jordan McLinn who continues to inspire to keep hope against all odds.
Some of you may be aware of my story and my access to the experimental treatment NurOwn from BrainStorm Therapeutics. Obviously we have a lot of work to do to cure this disease, but we have demonstrated unequivocally that lost motor function can be restored. This is both a miracle and a tremendous scientific achievement. I apologize that I am speaking to you through a computer but I have a condition known as pseudo bulbar affect which makes it difficult to form words when I am emotional. Under the weight of the tremendous love and gratitude I feel for the people in this room, it would be impossible to form a complete sentence.
There is a common belief that when people are faced with a terminal illness, they become more enlightened, or at least have a greater perspective on life. This has not been my experience. For example, I spend an unhealthy amount of time ruminating about how the New York Yankees keep falling short of the World Series. One thing that has changed for me is that I have a lot more time to read. I want to share with you one small observation that has been sort of a compass for me.
A 13th-century monk named Thomas à Kempis noticed that man’s heart is influenced by both nature and grace. Everything I have read in philosophy, economics, and even fantasy football strategy seems to be an acknowledgement of this truth. We are subjects of our animal nature with the terrible burden of our divine logic compelling us to overcome it. The Right to Try law is an almost perfect recognition of our condition. Medical innovation is always going to be market driven no matter how much some people want to believe it can be different. But the law is also consistent with the ideal of individual liberty and the infinite potential for anyone brave enough to pursue it.
There are predators out there trying to convince us our nature can be overcome through some sort of collectivist utopia. In our weakness it may be tempting to sacrifice our freedom for this false security but inevitably their plans are designed to satisfy their own appetites. What other way could it be?
The path to grace has always been through rugged individualism and I am here tonight to thank all of you for being courageous enough to fight for it.