Over the past few weeks you’ve been learning about the prejudice and discrimination faced by Ryan White because of his HIV infection. This series concludes with a tribute to the life of Ryan White from the view point of one of his friends, Michael Jackson, who would have celebrated his 53rd birthday today if he was still with us.
The 1980’s, from a HIV/AIDS viewpoint was a time when many people panicked and about a new fatal and contagious disease, people were highly on guard with those who contracted it. Most people were afraid of individuals who had HIV and if known to them, wouldn’t sit near them, talk to them and if it were possible refuse to breathe the same air! It was exactly this time that Michael Jackson fearlessly invited Ryan to his home, and publicly embraced him inviting others not to be fearful of people living with HIV.
Ryan Whites mother, Jeanne White-Ginder has fond memories of Michael’s friendship with her son and you can read more about Ryan and Michael’s friendship here.
Two years after Ryan died, Michael Jackson released “Gone Too Soon” on World AIDS Day, 1993 dedicating it to Ryan White. The video shows footage of Michael and Ryan together, as well as scenes from Ryan’s funeral. Michael also performed the song at Bill Clinton’s inaugural celebration to serve as a promotional platform for HIV & AIDS funding adding:
I would like to take a moment from this very public ceremony to speak of something very personal. It concerns a dear friend of mine who is no longer with us. His name is Ryan White. He was a hemophiliac who was diagnosed with the AIDS virus [sic] when he was eleven. He died shortly after turning eighteen, the very time most young people are beginning to explore life’s wonderful possibilities. My friend Ryan was a very bright, very brave, and very normal young man who never wanted to be a symbol or a spokesperson for a deadly disease. Over the years, I’ve shared many silly, happy, and painful moments with Ryan and I was with him at the end of his brief but eventful journey. Ryan is gone and just as anyone who has lost a loved one to AIDS, I miss him deeply and constantly. He is gone, but I want his life to have meaning beyond his passing. It is my hope, President-elect Clinton, that you and your administration commit the resources needed to eliminate this awful disease that took my friend, and ended so many promising lives before their time.
“Gone Too Soon” later received more exposure, following the deaths of both Diana, Princess of Wales and Michael Jackson himself.