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Dr. Robert Cooke looks out over trees and a body of water
[Sound] Outdoor ambience and birds
Dr. Alan Guttmacher and Dr. Robert Cooke are seated in a living room having a conversation. Guttmacher talks on screen.
Dr. Alan Guttmacher: Dr. Cooke, it's such a pleasure to be able to sit down and talk with you on the 50th anniversary of the founding of what is now of course the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, because not only were you there at the birth of this thing, but you were at least a midwife if not more to the beginning of the place. And so I really want to hear from you what it was like at the beginning, how did this happen? How did you all work to create such a thing?
Dr. Cooke talks on screen.
Dr. Robert Cooke: Well, it was one of these very fortuitous circumstances. I was a good friend with Eunice Shriver and when the president was elected, before he took office, they put together a task force to look at health and social services for the new administration. And I got a telephone call one day asking me if I could serve on this task force. So we met at the Mayflower hotel for the first time.
Dr. Guttmacher talks on screen.
Dr. Guttmacher: And this was the period in between the election and inauguration or when was it?
Dr. Cooke: Right, it was right after the election. And we met in the Mayflower hotel, there were five of us. Wilbur Cohen was the chairman of the little group. Then we had to go up and see governor...
Dr. Guttmacher: Governor Ribicoff?
Dr. Cooke: Ribicoff, right! He had been appointed Secretary of Human Services. And he wasn't a bit interested in my presentation. But Ted Sorensen was there at the time and Sorensen said, "This is a great thing, to balance our emphasis on medical care for the elderly." And so Sorensen took the message back to Kennedy I guess and they went ahead and developed some legislation, and I peddled it to people in Congress, and sure enough I think that Congress voted almost unanimously to create the Institute. Eunice Shriver was a big help because the two people that controlled all medical activity were Lister Hill in the Senate and John Fogarty in the House. So we went to see John Fogarty, and he had been prepped by the head of the NIH that this wasn't a good idea. And so at the start of the interviews, he really showed that he wasn't in favor of it. And Eunice, I can remember so well, Eunice said, "Do you have any retarded people in Providence" And of course Fogarty said, "Well of course." "Well they need this help." So Fogarty jumped on the bandwagon. And then we went to see Lister Hill the same day, and Hill, when we went in, told him a little about it, said anything Eunice wants, we'll do. So that's how it became legislation. My feeling is that NICHD has made an enormous contribution to children in this country, and I think to medicine in general. What you do for the child seems to make an enormous difference in his life.