A mention of the
ubiquitous Armstrong-inspired yellow wristbands triggers a Clintonian riff on
how "the Internet and mass marketing mechanisms have increased the power of
private citizens to do public good ... particularly if they are well led,
whether it is by Bono or Bill and Melinda Gates or Lance Armstrong."
So this is what
Armstrong does for an encore. This is the next hors cat�gorie mountain looming
before him: raising money, raising awareness, cajoling, bullying,
shaming--"making a significant difference in the battle against what's
going to be the Number 1 killer in America," Armstrong declares.
"That's how I make seven yellow jerseys look small."
from now," says Clinton, "we may say Lance's second career was greater
than his first."
Bono, by the way,
thinks Armstrong should run for office. "Most people don't believe that the
world can be changed," the Irish rock star and political activist says.
"Lance is different. He understands that hills can be climbed, and he isn't
even depressed when, upon reaching the summit of one, he sees a larger one
[ahead]. He's used to that. That's what Lance Armstrong stands for."
Ixnay on politics,
says Armstrong, who fears that the moment he chooses a political side, he will
halve his influence. "I need to run for one office," he says, making up
a title as he goes along, "the presidency of the Cancer Fighters' Union of
He might have to
wrest that title from Michael Milken, a cancer survivor whose Prostate Cancer
Foundation has helped transform cancer research, streamlining the grant process
and requiring recipients to share their research. According to the National
Center for Health Statistics, in 2003 there were 369 fewer cancer deaths in the
U.S. than the previous year--the first decrease in 70 years. That's due in part
to Milken, the former Wall Street financier who spent 22 months in jail in the
1990s for securities violations. Milken has smarts, money and access to the
corridors of power. What he does not have, says the LAF's Ulman, is the ability
"to reach millions of people."
in other words, Milken is not sitting on an army. The LAF has sold more than 60
million yellow LIVESTRONG wristbands. Armstrong and his advisers are still
thinking about how and when they will mobilize that army--whose ranks they
encourage you to swell by clicking on www.livestrong.org. But when they do,
says LAF marketing director Dave Lyon, "we're going to have an awfully big
cannon to point."
Armstrong is enjoying life, smothering his three children with affection (they
spend almost half their time with him; their mother lives less than two miles
away), mountain biking on his ranch and doing homework: reading cancer
literature and debriefing experts on cancer-related issues. For every day he
has spent catching up on all the fun he missed over the last 10 years--at the
Rose Bowl in early January, Armstrong and fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey
"tried to pack a four-year undergraduate experience into 48 hours," a
friend recalls--there is a day like Feb. 17, when the LAF brought together some
of the brightest minds in the fight against cancer. The panelists were
instructed to put all options on the table and suspend disbelief. "Don't
think about what can't happen because of current realities," said Ulman.
"Think about what needs to happen in your field." Armstrong scribbled
notes and asked questions throughout the day.
coast now, says Bono, his friend and mentor ... and a man who knows a little
about leveraging celebrity to do good. "But Lance wants to go back to
school. And that makes him very dangerous. When a great man goes back to
school, the Devil gets very depressed."
The devil is down
there somewhere. Shortly after dark on Jan. 24 Armstrong is looking out the
window of a private jet at the skyline of Las Vegas. He isn't crazy about the
city; he doesn't like to gamble. "I worked too hard for my money to be
throwing it away," he says--a remark that sounds funny coming from a man
who will be paid $150,000 to deliver a 30-minute speech to a group of Carrier
air-conditioner salesmen on the following afternoon.