Colleen Wuebben of Omaha, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, said she had been nervous about speaking Monday before a luncheon of influential citizens, elected officials, medical researchers and others — but awoke in the middle of the night and the words flowed.
She wrote them down exactly as she wanted to say them, happy to have found inspiration. She went back to sleep, arose in the morning and reached for her notepad.
It was so illegible, she said, that she couldn't read it.
Her quip, which drew a big laugh at the Happy Hollow Club, was a light-hearted introduction to her own struggle and a serious and often controversial topic: embryonic stem cell research. She spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Nebraska Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, which supports such research.
Wuebben, a mother of six and grandmother of 12, said she and husband Ted, whom she called “the most principled man I know,” disagree on embryonic stem cell research — she favors it, he does not.
“And I wager,” she said, “that we are not the only couple, family or friendship to ever hold divergent beliefs.”
The coalition honored Walter and Suzanne Scott for their support of research.
“Whenever and wherever something wonderful happens in Nebraska,” said Dr. Gail Yanney, “you know that Sue and Walter are not far behind.”
Richard Holland of Omaha said much of the Scotts' philanthropy is private. But they have made major contributions, he said, to the Kiewit Institute, Omaha Performing Arts, Qwest Center Omaha, TD Ameritrade Park, Building Bright Futures, Henry Doorly Zoo, Children's Hospital & Medical Center, Joslyn Art Museum and universities.
Walter Scott, in accepting the honor, said each generation benefits from the investment of previous generations. He cited the late Charles Durham for his contributions, including to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Durham knew that he wouldn't personally benefit, Scott said, “but perhaps his grandchildren or my grandchildren would.”
UNMC last fall announced creation of the Nebraska Regenerative Medicine Project. It is dedicated to research in embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells and other forms of regenerative medicine.
After the announcement, the Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research, which opposes embryonic stem cell research because it destroys embryos, called such research divisive. A spokesman for the Nebraska Catholic Conference said UNMC's embryonic stem cell research was arrogant.
Colleen Wuebben congratulated the medical center for the breadth of its research on various levels. She wished researchers success in “working yourselves out of a job — soon.”
Especially on a topic inspiring such strong opinions, she said, she hoped that people would not use sarcasm or derision to characterize those who disagree, but would remain open to new understandings and depth.
“Within our own home,” she said, “we agree to disagree on this issue.”
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