Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ann Landers, 6 years later

Ann Landers was a major part of my growing-up - she had a column in Newsday for many years before the paper added Dear Abby. I started reading it at about age 8 and came to know a great deal about the human condition and issues that people told me I'd understand when I was older.

Though Ann Landers (Esther Friedman Lederer) and Dear Abby (Pauline Friedman Phillips) were identical twins, it was always very easy for me to see them as individual writers - their sensibilities were quite different. Ann always seemed a bit sharper to me, while Abby took a softer approach.

Now their daughters have their own columns. Abby (Jeanne Phillips) publishes daily, while Margo (Margo Howard) comes out twice a week. I like them both. Still, Ann Landers will always be my favorite -- there are times I still can't believe she's really gone.

Esther Lederer died of multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. Her daughter has published a column today, asking for ramped-up public involvement in getting more funding for cancer research, just as Ann Landers did in the early 1970s. As my own small tribute to my favorite advice columnist, I'm reposting the article here, since I had not been aware of the multi-network effort being planned for tomorrow.

Please Support Cancer Research
Thu Sep 4, 2:00 AM ET

This is an unusual column for me to write. Throughout my years as an advice columnist (first as "Dear Prudence," now "Dear Margo"), I have never plugged anything or suggested to my readers that they participate in any event. I do so now to continue a tradition.

Thirty-seven years ago, my mother, Ann Landers, asked her readers to write their legislators to ensure both Houses got behind cancer research in a big way. It was a spectacular success. A million pieces of mail flooded Washington -- more than was received about the Vietnam War. As a result, President Nixon signed into law a bill making $100 million available for cancer research. It was the largest amount of money ever earmarked for any disease. This was in 1971. I was 31, and Mother was 53; now I am 68, and she is gone.

Almost 40 years later, I want to assist the next big push for cancer research, and I ask you to join me. On Sept. 5 at 8 p.m. (both EDT and PDT), there will be an unprecedented simultaneous collaboration between the traditional Big Three networks: ABC, CBS and NBC. For one commercial-free hour there will be a unified effort to raise funds for another accelerated push to foster a new round of groundbreaking cancer research. Cancer is still, regrettably, the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 85. Fortunately, owing to previous advances, 12 million Americans are living quality lives with cancer.

It is hoped that the networks' joint effort, "Stand Up To Cancer," will inspire people to get involved, whether by making a contribution or contacting their legislators. Awareness and participation are every bit as important as the science and technology used to treat cancer.

I hope you will tune in for this special hour on Sept. 5. For me, telling you about "Stand Up To Cancer" has sentimental meaning; for all of us, it will be a life-enhancing 60 minutes. As my mother wrote all those years ago, "No one can do everything, but each of us can do something."

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