President Bush welcomed Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong to the White House Friday. The men were joined by children who are benefiting from the cyclist's foundation to help those suffering from cancer.
President Bush heralded Mr. Armstong's third consecutive Tour de France victory as a story of courage and determination from an American hero.
"The Tour de France is perhaps the most physically demanding event in sports. It lasts three weeks, stretches over 2,100 miles [3,360 kilometers] and is often run in both sweltering heat and real cold weather," Mr. Bush said. "In the end, the race is won or lost in the mountains during five days of climbs that are incredibly steep and hazardous. That is when the heart is tested. And that is when Lance Armstrong excells. In the hardest part of the race, Lance reveals an unbending will, uncommon determination, and unquestioned courage."
The President said Mr. Armstrong has shown that courage in sport and in life. The cyclist battled back from testicular cancer in 1996 when doctors gave him only a 50-50 chance of survival.
"Lance Armstrong is a vivid reminder that the great achievements of life are often won or lost in the mountains, when the climb is the steepest, when the heart is tested," he said. "There are many children in this audience who are showing similar determination in their fight with cancer and other serious illnesses. You face tough challenges and you embrace life day by day. You are showing courage on your own journey and all of us are inspired by your example as well."
With his yellow leader's jersey framed on the White House stage, Mr. Armstrong encouraged cancer patients in the audience to stay positive and fight the disease. "It's an honor to be here. I can't say enough. To have my family, to have some friends, to have this room full of people to welcome us home and to make us feel like Americans and maybe even like heroes," he said. "I don't know. That's not a word we can give to ourselves. Thanks for having us. To the kids, good luck, fight hard, stay tough, and believe."
The Lance Armstrong Foundation provides education and public awareness about cancer, helps support cancer survivors and funds scientific research.