In 1987, the actress Elizabeth Taylor, who was serving as the national chairman of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), wrote the following letter to President Reagan, asking him to deliver a speech at a fundraising dinner amfAR was holding in Washington D.C. The president agreed, and he delivered the speech on May 31, 1987. It was his second major public speech on AIDS. Throughout his presidency, Reagan had distanced himself from the AIDS epidemic.
April 10, 1987
President and Mrs. Reagan
The White House
Dear Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan:
On Sunday evening, May 31st, at 6:00 P.M., at Potomac on the River, the American Foundation for AIDS Research will host a dinner to help raise the research funds that are so desperately needed to help stop the "AIDS epidemic" that threatens us all. Also, during the dinner, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop will be honored for his leadership in educating the public on the AIDS issue.
I am writing from my heart to ask if you both would attend the dinner and if you, Mr. President, would give the keynote speech. I am so pleased that you, Mr. President, have already spoken out on the issue of AIDS. By continuing to do so, you will have a great impact on the future well-being of this nation. Your participation in the dinner would mean a great deal to not only the American Foundation for AIDS Research, but also to people, like me, who are critically concerned about the impact of the ever-growing "AIDS epidemic."
The dinner will be underwritten by New York Life Insurance Company and its Chairman of the Board, Mr. Donald K. Ross, will co-chair the dinner with me. We will be joined by many other corporate leaders, and members of your Administration and Congress are expected to attend, including Senators Alan Cranston, Edward M. Kennedy, and Lowell Weicker; Congressmen Jim Wright, William S. Green, and Tony Coelho; Dr. Frank E. Young, Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration; and Dr. James B. Wyngaarden, Director, National Institutes of Health. Marvin Hamlisch has offered to entertain.
All proceeds will fund AIDS research. Your support will insure that it is an enormous financial success. It is hard for me to actually put into words what it would mean to me personally and to all of us trying to find a cure for this disease if you both were to accept my invitation.
Because the dinner is the night before the Third International AIDS Conference convenes in Washington, many guests will come from across the nation and around the world to attend, including many members of AmFAR's distinguished Scientific Advisory Committee.
AmFAR is solely supported by the private sector and I know that you in particular, Mr. President, believe in encouraging private sector support and involvement in helping to meet our nation's needs.
For you, Mrs. Reagan, the dinner provides a unique opportunity to focus attention on the growing link between drug abuse and AIDS. I'm sure you read the April 6th New York Times article on the problem. Drug abusers who suffer from AIDS are spreading the disease to increasing numbers of people with whom they come in close contact. In the months and years ahead, the AIDS and drug abuse "battlefields" may become inextricably intertwined as drug abuse provides the means for AIDS to spread throughout the entire population.
So many families already are being touched by AIDS today. We can only hope and work, through events such as this dinner, to find a cure for AIDS before many more lives are lost. I so hope you can join us.
It would do so much for us to get rid of the archaic stigma attached to the disease and to make people realize that it is no longer a minority disease; it can happen to anyone. It's nobody's fault and everybody's problem.
With best regards,
[handwritten] P.S. My love to you, Nancy, I hope to see you soon. E.