HOUSTON (Aug. 20)
Jewish Republicans here were abuzz about the speech delivered Wednesday night by AIDS activist Mary Fisher, with some calling it the best speech of the entire convention.
Fisher, who heads the Family Aids Foundation, is the daughter of Max Fisher, the prominent Jewish philanthropist and presidential confidant who is honorary chairman of both the Bush Quayle campaign and of the National Jewish Coalition, a Republican group.
Fisher, a mother of two young children who was infected with the virus that causes AIDS by her former husband, gave an eloquent speech that she said was intended to “lift the shroud of silence” on AIDS within the Republican Party.
She called on the party faithful to recognize that “AIDS is not a political creature,” but an ever-present threat to be combatted with courage and compassion and sound policy.
“It was very moving,” said Stanley Baum, a Jewish delegate from Georgia. “She’s a living testament that AIDS can happen to anyone, notwithstanding the stereotypes.”
Baum said that it was an important message to deliver not just to the party but to the nation.
“She was the best,” said Diane Bressler, a Republican from New York. “She was asking Republicans to be compassionate and include people rather than exclude them.”
In contrast to the AIDS activists featured at the Democratic convention last month, Fisher praised the leadership of President Bush in the war against the deadly disease.
But she implicitly criticized the party for its emphasis on family values, at the expense of openness and honesty in sex education, and for its harsh condemnation of homosexuals.
“We do the president’s cause no good if we praise the American family but ignore a virus that destroys it,” she said. “We cannot love justice and ignore prejudice, love our children and fear to teach them.”