Bolten is gracious
as he explains how Hurricane Katrina eliminated any "flexibility" the
Administration might have had in its budget. He repeatedly compliments
Armstrong on the initiative the LAF sent to the White House. Bolten suggests a
"dialogue" between the Administration and the LAF. After all, it won't
be long before preparations for the '08 budget begin. (Ulman and Armstrong will
travel to D.C. to meet with Bolten on March 28, the same day the White House
announces that Bolten will become the President's new chief of staff. Bolten
still makes the meeting.)
When Bolten tells
Armstrong that he admires "what you do and how you do it," the Texan
thanks, then browbeats him: "This should be a priority for everybody. The
problem is too big, and it's only going to get bigger. I know there's Iraq and
Afghanistan and Katrina, but this is more important."
In a smaller, more
spartan office down the hall, Dave Lyon is going about his new job as the LAF's
marketing director. He is in his third month with the foundation. Before that
he'd spent 14 years as president of Texas-based TM Advertising. "You can
only sell so many cars, so many bags of chips," he says. His face, ascetic
in appearance--the face of a monk or a marathoner--lights up when he smiles.
"Lance is not about incremental progress," Lyon says. "He wants to
do something disruptive in this fight. Meaning, very big." Lyon wouldn't
have left his plush advertising gig to work for someone who wasn't ready to
break some crockery. On March 27, 2005, Easter Sunday, his daughter Meredith
died of a cancer called neurofibrosarcoma. She fought the disease for nearly a
year. Meredith Lyon had just turned 15.
Before dying, she
endured seven surgeries, two of which lasted 12 hours, at M.D. Anderson. Lyon
remembers hunkering down in the waiting room before one of those ordeals.
"We were just another family sitting in the corner, trying to brace
ourselves," he recalls. "All of a sudden, the top officers from the
hospital started showing up, asking us if there was anything they could
Lyon had met
Armstrong briefly while working on a Subaru ad. "We weren't very
close," Lyon says, "but he reached out as if we were family."
Armstrong--who, despite having rejected M.D. Anderson's treatment plan in 1996,
has a good relationship with the hospital--had "called the very top [people
at] the hospital to make sure we had what we needed," Lyon says.
"When you go
through an experience like that, you learn an enormous amount," Lyon
continues. "So when the lights go out, you realize: I have knowledge I can
apply. Where do I put all this fight I still have in me?"
He is putting it
into his new job, which consists of locating, then activating the legions of
like-minded people wearing yellow wristbands. "Sixty million people have
raised their hands in solidarity with Lance," Lyon says. "These people
want to be told what they can do. They want to make a difference." Ex-ad
guy that he is, Lyon has distilled their yearning into a pithy phrase.
"What they're looking for," he says, "is the Next Right
Up the hall
Armstrong is pondering how to respond to the Bolten teleconference. Does he
call out the Bush Administration or hope that a year from now, when it's time
to announce the '08 budget, the President does right by his fellow Texan?
for one, believes it's time for the army to affix bayonets. Jordan, who sits on
the LAF's board, says, "You ask the American people, What's your greatest
fear? It's not terrorism. It's not crime. It's cancer. And it's a rational
fear. I'm not saying don't talk with Josh Bolten. But they oughta be getting
the damn army geared up too."
Back on the
freeway, behind the wheel of that sleek and sinister-looking Beemer, the head
of that army is sounding bellicose. The $146 million raised by his foundation
is all well and good, he allows. "But to find a cure, you're into
government money." To affect policy, he says, "you've got to vote as a
bloc. If we have an army of five million speaking with one voice--that's real
power. We should make the NRA look like the Tiddledywinks Association of