- First lady Jill Biden urged unity on cancer screenings and treatments in Palm Beach on Thursday.
- "We need to fight this disease, not each other," she said.
- The first lady will visit Surfside on Friday to mark the one-year anniversary of the condo collapse.
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida — First lady Jill Biden appealed for unity on Thursday just 4 miles from former President Donald Trump's perennial Mar-a-Lago home and on the home turf of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — one of her husband's most vocal critics.
The fist lady was promoting the Biden administration's cancer initiative, which she called a "key pillar" of what President Joe Biden is calling his "Unity Agenda."
"Cancer has the power to change us, but it connects us as well," Jill Biden said to an audience gathered in the Hilton West Palm Beach's ballroom. "It forces us to reach out for answers for help, for healing. It tears away the things that divide us, reminding us that we need to fight this disease, not each other."
The remarks came as the Biden administration and Ron DeSantis continue to clash on numerous issues, including COVID-19 vaccination policies. Trump has moved from his private Mar-a-Lago club to Bedminster, New Jersey, for the summer, but continues to mock Joe Biden in speeches.
But the first lady's focus on Thursday was squarely on an issue meant to cross partisan lines, as she broadly appealed for public support toward cancer screenings and treatments.
"The disease doesn't care who you voted for," Jill Biden said. "It's not a red or blue issue. It's an American issue. It's a global issue. It will take all of us to end cancer as we know it."
Earlier in the day, Jill Biden took a tour of FoundCare Palm Springs, a federally qualified health center nearby.
The trip was intended to spotlight private sector collaborations. FoundCare receives assistance from The Promise Fund of Florida, which pays for cancer screenings and treatments for women who are uninsured or don't have adequate coverage to pay for their healthcare.
The organization also connects patients with "navigators," meaning staff who help patients with transportation, translation, childcare, and other logistical services. Jill Biden on Thursday praised the organization for finding gaps in healthcare and meeting patients' needs.
Joe Biden announced in February that he was reigniting the Cancer Moonshot started under his former boss, then-President Barack Obama. The initiative's goals are to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least half in the next 25 years and to improve the lifes of people living with cancer, and of their families.
The disease is personal to the Bidens, who lost their son Beau to brain cancer in 2015. On Thursday, Jill Biden called their cancer work the "mission of our lives" for herself and the president.
Last year, Congress partially funded Joe Biden's request for a new agency called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, with plans to authorize more. The Biden administration has pitched the agency as a way to fund ambitious, risky biomedical research that would aim to to develop transformative new technologies, whether it be cancer or Alzheimer's cures.
"There is nothing political about this," Nancy Brinker, a Republican and co-founder of The Promise Fund, told Insider in an interview. "I have always respected Dr. Biden. She's wonderful, she's as sincere as she can be and she gets things done and they both have caring hearts."
Brinker was United States Ambassador to Hungary from 2001 to 2003 and Chief of Protocol of the United States from 2007 to the end of the George W. Bush administration. Brinker also founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer research and advocacy non-profit.
The Promise Fund is set to receive a $1 million federal grant appropriated by Congress, and also received a grant from the state of Florida, which increased funding for cancer research this year to $100 million.
The record funding increase in Florida was encouraged in part by Florida first lady Casey DeSantis, who underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer and was declared "cancer-free" in March. In another sign that the issue has bipartisan resonance, Casey DeSantis has spoken about the importance of screenings and the Florida governor's office has hinted that a messaging campaign on cancer is forthcoming.
Jill Biden's comments on Thursday were delivered as part of a two-day visit to Florida. On Friday, Jill Biden will attend a remembrance ceremony in Surfside, Florida, to mark the one-year anniversary since the Champlain Towers South collapse that killed 98 people.
A year ago, Ron DeSantis and Joe Biden demonstrated bipartisan unity after the tragedy, with the governor calling the president "very supportive." The governor's office hasn't yet released the DeSantises' schedule for Friday.