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Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 1992
Your Royal Highness,
Mr. President of the Principality of Asturias,
Mr. Chairman of the Prince of Asturias Foundation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening. It is with sincere gratitude and great pride, that I accept this, the highest of awards for the work of the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
The Prince of Asturias Prize has traditionally been awarded to individuals of excellence wherever they may be. It has reached out to the four corners of the known world, beyond Spain, and beyond Europe, to identify the finest examples of human achievement. I come with admiration and love to thank the Prince of Asturias and the members of the Jury for reaching out to us in the United States and bestowing this great honour.
In this year of the five hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the Americas, celebrating an Italian seaman sailing under a Spanish flag, the auspices for this symbolic trip to Spain could not be more powerful. Columbus left your shores, full of hope and aspiration. He wanted to discover a new world. Today, I come to Spain, full of hope and aspiration that I too will discover a new world. It is a freer and more tolerant world for all those living with AIDS. It is a global world where we can work together. It is a world without prejudice or despair. I am here to encourage even fuller cooperation between our nations, indeed, between, all nations, for we all know, only truly global cooperation will conquer AIDS. Tonight, we will begin that voyage. Our nations have been linked in the fiery crucible of History, and now we will go on. I will discover with you a world without prejudice, a world that will do the right thing - whatever the political cost - a world that will place the value of human life above any other single consideration.
Since the long shadow of AIDS darkened the medical history books I have seen the best of times and the worst of times. The best of people and the worst of people. I have seen nothing more beautiful or brave than the undying spirit and courage of those fighting for their lives. I have never seen the cruel or ugly in those sick or grieving; it was prejudice and violent discrimination that offended me the most. It is time for the world to learn that people with AIDS are not our enemy; it is solely the virus that we fight.
Nation by nation - in every country - it is time to stop the "us" and "them". For we are all us; those sick are all our children; those families are all our friends; and those lost are all our failures because we have not done enough.
The world is looking to the United States and the affluent nations of the world to find the medical solutions. They are looking to us for the compassionate and friendly policies that will protect our people. We must not let them down. Scientists from Barcelona to Boston must work together now. Educators from Ohio must share experience with those in Oviedo. And policy makers in Washington must set the humane example and truly lead the world. So far we have not done well enough. If we don't change this soon, there is a dark future for the world and we will all have blood on our hands. Even now, in Europe, Asia and the U.S., all around the world people don't want to talk about it. AIDS is still in the closet and naively believed to be a disease of homosexuals. It is not!
In the year 2000, it will be the disease of women. And not just transmitted by intravenous drug use or transfusions, but when people have normal active heterosexual relationships, as if they had never heard of safe sex. Knowledge is our great weapon and if we don't use it we are committing a crime; against ourselves, against our children and against our loved ones.
We have no time for moralistic preaching, we have no time for professional pride and, world leaders, we have no time to wait.
We must share what we know. We have learned - the hard way - that the distribution of condoms and clean needles does prevent new infections. I also know that this is hard to say. But we must take courage from the facts, and the lives of all our people hang in the balance. There is no moral choice. My mission is not to offend the church or the moral majority. My mission is not to run for public office. My mission is just to change the world.
Without change, the most brilliant and most beautiful in our lands is gone. Without change we will inherit an impossible and shameful place in the history books. Without change, we will destroy our young.
Help me, and please, help me now. Help me change the world. Help me protect those sick and safeguard those well. Help me speed research and education in every country. Find it in yourselves to say, yes, we can do whatever is necessary. For together, on this voyage, we will travel faster than alone. And let's you and I start here, right now. For I truly accept your honour of "concordia" and in that spirit, bless you now.
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