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Mary Fisher's powerful speech on AIDS still inspires 20 years later

Powerful 1992 speech on AIDS still resonates today

by Laura Berman

Two decades ago, Mary Fisher moved a Republican National Convention audience by calling on each of those assembled to be human, to take a compassionate and public stand and embrace those who had been diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. Her oldest son, Max, was then 4; his brother Zachary, 2.

"When Mary Fisher spoke like an angel that night," author Norman Mailer wrote in October 1992, "the floor was in tears, and conceivably the nation as well."

Her eloquence moved people. But so did the simple fact of who she was — the attractive, well-spoken daughter of Marjorie Fisher and Republican financier Max Fisher, the late Detroit civic leader and philanthropist.

"Hearing those words coming from her brought the message home to the mainstream," said Bill VanHemert, a spokesman for AIDS Partnership Michigan.

"Personally, it gave me hope."

Fisher returned home from that speech, preparing to die from a disease whose outcome in 1992 seemed irrevocable and certain. She contracted the HIV virus from her ex-husband, who died in 1993.

She wrote lengthy entries in her sons' journals, "so they'd know me when I was gone."

They do know her, because she is still here. Her children have grown to adulthood with a mother who beat all odds and expectations, proving both the unpredictability of life and the fierceness of her spirit.

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“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” John Burroughs


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