2007 YouthAIDS Gala Speech
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, old friends and new. I am glad that you are here.
If you watch the documentary made during my 3-week stay in india that we are celebrating tonight, you hear me say that word a lot.
This touching gesture is the manner of greeting for billions of people on this earth.
Today alone is it was made – given and received – in countless human interactions.
Here in the west we know it less well, so I thought I would share with you what I know of it and what it means to me.
This gesture is my calling card and cri de corps as PSI board member and global ambassador for YouthAIDS.
I have no special qualifications for this job – I am not a high-ranking popularly elected member of government – good evening Speaker Pelosi.
I am not a captain of industry. Many of you paid $50k for your table tonight? My gosh – thank you.
I do not preside over one of the world’s great philanthropic foundations – It’s always good to see you Susie.
I am not royalty – Queen Noor, you are such a smashing beauty.
I am not one of the world’s visionary activists, starting forgive the debt campaigns and popular movements like data and ONE….Jamie, let’s boogie tonight like we did last year!
I am not even a rock star. Hi Pal, I am so glad you are here.
What qualifies me for this work is my faith the god of my understanding doesn’t call the qualified—- my god qualifies the call.
And this gesture neatly summarizes everything I believe.
The spirit of God in me bows before the spirit of god in you.
Another more literal translation even more tender is the supreme sweetness in me bows before the supreme sweetness in you.
YouthAIDS’ courageous sensitive creative culturally appropriate, locally run, life-saving and profoundly compassionate grass-roots programs in 65 countries have given me the divine opportunity to bow before the intrinsic and estimable worth of the beautiful people we serve.
In horrifying brothels and degrading slums, in solemn hospices and rubble-filled youth centers, I have had the chance to hear the stories of the vulnerable, the at-risk, the exploited, the poor and the extremely poor, the
despised, the bought and sold, the outcasts, the ostracized and the stigmatized – and to them I have said namaste.
You are not your circumstances, you are not this misfortunate, you are neither what has been done to you nor are you what you have done.
And the supreme sweetness in me bows before the presence of god in you.
You are a child of god; precious, invaluable, perfectly imperfect just like I.
And I am honored to have come from half way around the world to tell you this.
(Your suffering is real, the so called differences between us are lies)
One particular afternoon in india I had on one knee a four year old and on the other an eleven year old my idea of heaven.
The boys had been rescued from an indescribable life of homelessness on a railway platform.
Shockingly and urgently they needed counseling for sexual abuse and HIV testing.
Being boys, they had not been immediately trafficked into brothels rather they were “ simply” exploited periodically by men who use children for sex.
As they told me their stories and I loved on them, I shared simple ideas, this is not your fault, this is not your shame, and you did nothing to deserve this.
(And the american in me was shouting, you were born with the right to shelter, food, clean water, saftey, freedom of expression and religion)
After awhile the older boy crowed unforgetably at me, “Who are you?”
In the words of Michael McDonald’s iconic song, which he will sing for you later – “You don’t know me, but I am your sister.“
And YouthAIDS and PSI helps me manifest my passion for “taking it the streets.“
Being a Hollywood actor landed me the role of lifetime with YouthAIDS, and love keeps me here.
I am profoundly grateful for the ways and means that PSI and YouthAIDS give me to help manifest my lifetime belief in the worth, dignity, rights and equality of all people everywhere.
And so to these practical grass-roots programs and the people who run them, to those we reach and those who still need us, to those who are abandonned and forgotten, to organizations like ours, to all of you who mentor me, and those who help finance this mighty and sacred work and above all, to the guiding one who loves all loving, my beautifl and compassionate higher power, who does for me what I cannnot do for myself, I say:
Okay, my sweet friend, you got me into this holy mess – and it’s all your fault my life is so wonderfully changed….would you like to come say a few words?