Thursday, April 8, 2010

20 Years Ago...

Today is the 20th anniversary of the passing of Ryan White. I can't believe it's been 20 years. I was in elementary school when I first heard Ryan White's story. The AIDS epidemic was ramping up and there was so much confusion, fear, and bias surrounding the disease. I was young but I knew this thing was a big deal. And I truly felt for Ryan White. The deplorable way he and his family were treated angered me. I remember feeling ashamed of living in Indiana because of the prejudice he experienced. I figured everyone around the country would lump all Indiana residents into the intolerance, bias category. He was a peer - only a few years older than me - and he was told he wasn't allowed to attend school. It seemed impossible that anyone would deny him this right.

I never would have thought that 20 years after his death, I'd somehow be involved with honoring his legacy through my role at IU. I feel honored and blessed to help continue his message of tolerance, awareness, and strength. Tomorrow is the event we've planned and as a result, we've also established a scholarship to continue his work. When we first began planning this event in partnership with Ryan's mother, Jeanne White Ginder, we wondered how much interest it would generate. Judging by the media attention we've received, people still remember his story and still care about his message. Our press releases have been picked up by the the AP, there was a blurb in USA Today, and NPR interviewed Jeanne (who has also had interviews with a few Indianapolis television stations). Tomorrow is going to be a big deal. I'm bringing my Kleenex.

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