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Bob Hattoy's Speech to the 1992 Democratic National Convention

Clinton_hattoyThis morning I posted about the death of Bob Hattoy. Hattoy was the first openly gay person (and the first with HIV) to address a political convention when Bill Clinton asked him to speak at the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York. His speech was broadcast nationally in prime time.

Thanks to The Democratic Party blog, here's the text of that speech, which continues after the jump:

BOB HATTOY: Thank you. I love you. Thank you, California. Thank you, Gay and Lesbian community. Thank you, Congresswoman Pat Schroeder. Thank you, Aretha Franklin, God.

I am here tonight because of one man's courage and conviction, one man's dedication and daring and yes, one man's true kindness. He's my boss, Bill Clinton. (Applause)

You see, I have AIDS. I could be an African American woman, a Latino man, a 10-year old boy or girl. AIDS has many faces. And AIDS knows no class or gender, race or religion, or sexual orientation. AIDS does not discriminate, but George Bush's White House does. (Applause)

AIDS is a disease of the Reagan-Bush years. The first case was detected in 1981, but it took 40,000 deaths and seven years for Ronald Reagan to say the word "AIDS." It's five years later, 70,000 more dead and George Bush doesn't talk about AIDS, much less do anything about it.

Eight years from now there will be 2 million cases in America. If George Bush wins, we're all at risk in America. It's that simple. It's that serious. It's that terrible. (Applause)

(Chants of "No second term!")

This is hard. I'm a Gay man with AIDS and if there's any honor in having this disease it's because it's an honor being part of the Gay and Lesbian community in America. (Applause)

We have watched our friends and lovers die, but we have not given up hope. Gay men and Lesbians created community health clinics, provided educational materials, opened food kitchens, and held the hands of the dying in hospices. The Gay and Lesbian community is an American family in the best sense of the word. (Applause)

President Bush, we are a million points of light; you are just too morally blind to see us. Mr. President, you don't see AIDS for what it is - it's a crisis in public health that demands medical experts, not moral judges - and it's time to move beyond your politics of denial, division and death. It's time to move George Bush out of the White House. (Applause)

We need a President who will take action, a President strong enough to take on the insurance companies that drop people with the HIV virus, a President courageous enough to take on the drug companies who drive AIDS patients into poverty and deny them lifesaving medicine. And we need a President who isn't terrified of the word "condom." (Applause)

Every single person with AIDS is someone worthy of caring for. After all, we are your sons and daughters, fathers and mothers. We are doctors and lawyers, folks in the military, ministers and priests and rabbis. We are Democrats, and yes, Mr. President, Republicans. We are part of the American family and, Mr. President, your family has AIDS and we're dying and you're doing nothing about it. (Applause)

Listen. I don't want to die. I don't want to die. But I don't want to live in an America where the President sees me as the enemy. I can face dying because of a disease, but not because of politics.

So I stand here tonight in support of Bill Clinton, a man who sees the value in each and every member of the American family. And although I am a person with AIDS, I am a person with hope, because I know how different my life and all our lives could be if I could call my boss Mr. President.

Martin Luther King once said that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Fifty thousands people took to the streets in New York today because they will no longer be silent about AIDS. (Applause)

Their actions give me hope. All of you came here tonight; millions more are watching in America. Obviously, we have hope and hope gives me the chance of life. I think it's really important to understand that this year, more than any other year, we must vote as if our life depends on it. Mine does; your could - and we all have so much to live for. Thank you.

(Standing ovation)

Act Up. Fight Back. Fight AIDS. Thank you.


He will be missed.

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  1. Thanks, Andy, for posting that.

    50,000 gays in the streets of New York City or Washington DC or Chicago or Miami or Atlanta or Los Angeles or even San Francisco DEMANDING equal rights. Imagine. Just imagine.....

    Silence still equals death, and death takes many forms.....

    Posted by: Leland | Mar 5, 2007 5:45:46 PM

  2. I cannot understand why it took Reagan's administration so long to acknowledge AIDS. I remember when I was younger, you'd even hear about it sometimes on the playground at recess (although it was in a negative manner) so I can't see why the President refused to even mention it.

    Posted by: Derrick | Mar 5, 2007 6:04:47 PM

  3. The fact that politicians choose to ignore or champion any particular disease is of no relevance. It should be abundantly clear that the state is not the entity indicated to investigate or provide solutions to HIV, or lung cancer, muscular dystrophy and polio, for that matter. The state excels at one thing: the exercise of force against its own citizens, and in the case of many large industrialized superpowers, against the citizens of other nations. Do not look to the state for succor. Ask yourself what YOU may do to bring about the extermination of the virus that wrecked so many lives.

    Posted by: Diego Portero | Mar 5, 2007 7:18:03 PM

  4. Fuck you, Diego. And not in the good way. Fortunately, stupidity such as yours in not communicable; though Republicans and homophobes generally have made a good case that it is.

    Posted by: Leland | Mar 5, 2007 7:33:42 PM

  5. YES, when millions of its citizens are stricken with a disease for which there was no known cause or treatment it IS the government's responsibility to take action. Messrs Reagan and Bush bare on their hands the blood of thousands of gay americans who died needlessly while their moral self-righteousness ruled the day. I think history will rightfully judge the AIDS pandemic to be one of the moral low-points of American politics.

    For all of my friends who suffered and died on the cross of Republican indifference, thank you for not going gently into the night. You are still missed and still loved.

    Posted by: Parker | Mar 5, 2007 7:44:46 PM

  6. Amen Parker. Amen.

    Posted by: Darren | Mar 5, 2007 8:04:01 PM

  7. my eyes moistened re-reading the speech and reminiscing about the evening when this speech was made. thrilling - the vision of an openly gay man speaking from his heart about a real "life and death" issue of the time. my heart yearns for those days again - not the pain and suffering that befell all of us (especially those directly impacted by AIDS), but for the day when gay men and women stood up, put it on the line and committed themselves to getting involved in the world. yes - there are pockets where that happens today, but the real emotional power is gone. and politcally, we spend our days now fighting off verbal slurs and insults with an expectation that we'll be cowed with pro forma "apologies." Andy - not to blow smoke up your ass - but your site is truly one of the few community arenas that give me hope that gay men and women still have hope - still have intelligence - and still have value in a country that increasingly humilitates us in a thousand complicit ways. thanks for bringing back a moment - and a sense of hope.

    Posted by: resurrect | Mar 5, 2007 8:57:47 PM

  8. Andy, you NEED to post about this!

    Self-loathing REPUBLICAN and friend to fag hater Ann Coulter, Matt Sanchez, is FORMER GAY PORN STAR ROD MAJORS!

    Posted by: Girdle | Mar 6, 2007 12:01:23 AM

  9. I love that he's either:

    1) thanking Aretha Franklin before God, or

    2) calling Aretha Franklin God.

    The syntax is ambiguous, but either way, it proves he's gay.

    Great speech.

    Posted by: JD | Mar 7, 2007 5:34:05 PM

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