Here is the video clip of Mary
Fisher's A Whisper of AIDS speech. The clip is split
into two parts. Mary starts her speech at 0:49.
It follows the full text transcript of
Mary Fisher's A Whisper of AIDS speech, delivered at
Houston, Texas — August 19, 1992.
Less than three
hearings in Salt Lake City, I asked the
Republican Party to lift the shroud of silence
which has been draped over the issue of HIV and
AIDS. I have come tonight to bring our silence
to an end. I bear a message of challenge, not
self-congratulation. I want your attention, not
I would never have asked to be HIV positive, but
I believe that in all things there is a purpose;
and I stand before you and before the nation
gladly. The reality of AIDS is brutally clear.
Two hundred thousand Americans are dead or
dying. A million more are infected. Worldwide,
forty million, sixty million, or a hundred
million infections will be counted in the coming
few years. But despite science and research,
White House meetings, and congressional
hearings, despite good intentions and bold
initiatives, campaign slogans, and hopeful
promises, it is, despite it all, the epidemic
which is winning tonight.
In the context of an election year, I ask you,
here in this great hall, or listening in the
quiet of your home, to recognize that AIDS virus
is not a political creature. It does not care
whether you are Democrat or Republican; it does
not ask whether you are black or white, male or
female, gay or straight, young or old.
Tonight, I represent an AIDS community whose
members have been reluctantly drafted from every
segment of American society. Though I am white
and a mother, I am one with a black infant
struggling with tubes in a Philadelphia
hospital. Though I am female and contracted this
disease in marriage and enjoy the warm support
of my family, I am one with the lonely gay man
sheltering a flickering candle from the cold
wind of his family's rejection.
This is not a distant threat. It is a present
danger. The rate of infection is increasing
fastest among women and children. Largely
unknown a decade ago, AIDS is the third leading
killer of young adult Americans today. But it
won't be third for long, because unlike other
diseases, this one travels. Adolescents don't
give each other cancer or heart disease because
they believe they are in love, but HIV is
different, and we have helped it along. We have
killed each other with our ignorance, our
prejudice, and our silence.
We may take refuge in our stereotypes, but we
cannot hide there long, because HIV asks only
one thing of those it attacks. Are you human?
And this is the right question. Are you human?
Because people with HIV have not entered some
alien state of being. They are human. They have
not earned cruelty, and they do not deserve
meanness. They don't benefit from being isolated
or treated as outcasts. Each of them is exactly
what God made: a person; not evil, deserving of
our judgment; not victims, longing for our pity
— people, ready for support and worthy of
My call to you, my Party, is to take a public
stand, no less compassionate than that of the
President and Mrs. Bush. They have embraced me
and my family in memorable ways. In the place of
judgment, they have shown affection. In
difficult moments, they have raised our spirits.
In the darkest hours, I have seen them reaching
not only to me, but also to my parents, armed
with that stunning grief and special grace that
comes only to parents who have themselves leaned
too long over the bedside of a dying child.
With the President's leadership, much good has
been done. Much of the good has gone unheralded,
and as the President has insisted, much remains
to be done. But we do the President's cause no
good if we praise the American family but ignore
a virus that destroys it.
We must be consistent if we are to be believed.
We cannot love justice and ignore prejudice,
love our children and fear to teach them.
Whatever our role as parent or policymaker, we
must act as eloquently as we speak, else we have
no integrity. My call to the nation is a plea
for awareness. If you believe you are safe, you
are in danger. Because I was not hemophiliac, I
was not at risk. Because I was not gay, I was
not at risk. Because I did not inject drugs, I
was not at risk.
My father has devoted much of his lifetime
guarding against another holocaust. He is part
of the generation who heard Pastor Niemoeller
come out of the Nazi death camps to say,
came after the Jews, and I was not a Jew, so, I
did not protest. They came after the trade
unionists, and I was not a trade unionist, so, I
did not protest. Then they came after the Roman
Catholics, and I was not a Roman Catholic, so, I
did not protest. Then they came after me, and
there was no one left to protest."
The lesson history teaches is this: If
you believe you are safe, you are at risk. If
you do not see this killer stalking your
children, look again. There is no family or
community, no race or religion, no place left in
America that is safe. Until we genuinely embrace
this message, we are a nation at risk.
Tonight, HIV marches resolutely toward AIDS in
more than a million American homes, littering
its pathway with the bodies of the young — young
men, young women, young parents, and young
children. One of the families is mine. If it is
true that HIV inevitably turns to AIDS, then my
children will inevitably turn to orphans. My
family has been a rock of support.
My 84-year-old father, who has pursued the
healing of the nations, will not accept the
premise that he cannot heal his daughter. My
mother refuses to be broken. She still calls at
midnight to tell wonderful jokes that make me
laugh. Sisters and friends, and my brother
Phillip, whose birthday is today, all have
helped carry me over the hardest places. I am
blessed, richly and deeply blessed, to have such
But not all of you have
been so blessed. You are HIV positive, but dare
not say it. You have lost loved ones, but you
dare not whisper the word AIDS. You weep
silently. You grieve alone. I have a message for
you. It is not you who should feel shame. It is
we, we who tolerate ignorance and practice
prejudice, we who have taught you to fear. We
must lift our shroud of silence, making it safe
for you to reach out for compassion. It is our
task to seek safety for our children, not in
quiet denial, but in effective action.
Someday our children will be grown. My son Max,
now four, will take the measure of his mother.
My son Zachary, now two, will sort through his
memories. I may not be here to hear their
judgments, but I know already what I hope they
are. I want my children to know that their
mother was not a victim. She was a messenger. I
do not want them to think, as I once did, that
courage is the absence of fear. I want them to
know that courage is the strength to act wisely
when most we are afraid. I want them to have the
courage to step forward when called by their
nation or their Party and give leadership, no
matter what the personal cost.
I ask no more of you than I ask of myself or of
my children. To the millions of you who are
grieving, who are frightened, who have suffered
the ravages of AIDS firsthand. Have courage, and
you will find support.
To the millions who are
strong, I issue the plea: Set aside prejudice
and politics to make room for compassion and
To my children, I make this pledge: I will not
give in, Zachary, because I draw my courage from
you. Your silly giggle gives me hope; your
gentle prayers give me strength; and you, my
child, give me the reason to say to America,
"You are at risk." And I will not rest, Max,
until I have done all I can to make your world
safe. I will seek a place where intimacy is not
the prelude to suffering. I will not hurry to
leave you, my children, but when I go, I pray
that you will not suffer shame on my account.
To all within the sound of my voice, I appeal:
Learn with me the lessons of history and of
grace, so my children will not be afraid to say
the word "AIDS" when I am gone. Then, their
children and yours may not need to whisper it at