On May 12th, 2003, Paul M. Glaser was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award at a benefit dinner of about 900 people from The Phoenix Body Positive, the largest privately funded clinical trial program in the Southwest. Congratulations Mr. Glaser for a well deserved honor. Your humanitarian efforts on behalf of children and the fight against HIV/AIDS worldwide is a tribute to your strength, character and heart. I will quote you here by saying: "...follow your heart and know that whatever your plans, your goals, your dreams, life will take you in directions you have never even dreamed of." And hasn't your life been a wonderful gift and an incredible journey.
LARRY KING: There’s a gentleman who’s brought incredible awareness to the problem of AIDS. You remember him as Starsky of Starsky & Hutch (an audience member shouts “PAUL!”), but I know him as the husband of the late Elizabeth Glaser who died of AIDS. God it’s, since 1988, it’s like yesterday, yesterday. In her memory he started the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and we are proud to honor him. Ladies and gentlemen, Body Positive Life Time Achievement Award to Paul Michael Glaser!
(Paul walks up to the stage from his table through guests standing and applauding in his honor) PAUL: (on stage reaching out and shaking Larry King’s hand)(to Larry..) Thank you and back to you.
(To applauding audience) Thank you. Thank you very much… ah, thank you. I just want to.. ah..ah… Hi (looking at someone in the front)… I just want to ah, ah, correct one thing. Ah, Elizabeth founded the foundation with two friends, would often ask me what I thought about things… and I’d tell her and then she wouldn’t listen (pleasant grin) anyways and it wouldn’t make any difference, but she developed the foundation. It wasn’t until she passed away that I became chairman of the, ah, board and was so until seven years ago and so she, ah, thank you for that wonderful and charming introduction Larry, but I didn’t start the foundation and I gotta keep it straight. PAUL: (Puts on his glasses, wrinkles his nose) So, ah, how are you all tonight? (Cheers from audience) I don’t know about you, but I sweat through my shirt (fiddles with tie and jacket) It’s a little warm. Well, thank you. Thank you very much for welcoming me and bestowing this really nice honor. It’s a pleasure to be here. I was here in Phoenix on April 4 th playing some golf, ah, that’s what you could call it and ah, it’s always great to come here, it’s just beautiful. (a little applause starts, Paul looks around) You’re applauding for yourself, so go ahead, you live here (laughs).
I hope what I share with you tonight is of some value to me… um… it’s certainly ah, a value to you, it’s certainly been a value to me to share with you. Ah, a 34 year old man (plates fall and Paul turns)…. Ah, you got that under control?....A 34 year old man, who has been extremely successful in business, has made over $20 – $25 million in the past 5 years, is also an avid, accomplished and very, very low handicapped golfer… and he gets a tee time at Augusta National and that’s not small potatoes, very few people get that. On an appointed day, he gets there early and meets his host. An elderly man, southern gentleman in his seventies and after exchanging pleasantries and warming up they proceed to the first tee. And the elderly gentleman, being a gracious host, offers his guest to hit first. And the younger man suggests that they have a bet. The old guy goes “Sure how about 10 cents for the first nine holes, 10 cents for the second nine holes and 10 cents for the hole over all.” A dime 3 ways and the older guy nodes and the younger guy says “You know, I don’t wanna brag, but in the past 3 years, I’ve made over $25 million, I’m a low handicapper and this is Augusta National. Let’s say we play for something a little more exciting."
So the old guy goes ‘OK”; he takes out a quarter out of his pocket, flips it in the air, catches it in a tight fist and he says “ I’ll flip you for a million right here and right now (laughter from the audience)!"
Well, the young man stares speechless and open mouthed and the old man pockets his quarter and suggests they stick to the dime 3 ways (laughter). The younger man shoots 94…18 shots above his handicap!
I remember a book which posited a theory on the evolution of story telling. In it, 2 prehistoric, pre-cave men are sitting around a fire in the middle of the night, in the middle of the darkness… pitch black. And all around them, sounds of all those that would come and eat them. The two men, petrified. Then one man picks up a rock and he hits it against another rock (Paul claps simulating the 2 rocks) and he does it again.
This time the second man grunts, the first hits, the second “uhh” (Paul claps and grunts). They continue hitting and grunting (Paul claps and grunts three times) because it makes them feel better, it comforts them because their being causal, because they can see and feel what’s happening. And their duet gets them through the night. 500 years later, 40 or so families are sprawled out in a cave. They’ve eaten too much saber-toothed tiger, their full and none of them feel around, feel like sitting around rocks and grunting. So they choose someone to do it for them and that person becomes the charman, the priest, the rabbi, the story teller that speaks for them and to them and affirms their common plight and their ability to over come their fear of death. Sometime thereafter, man starts to use oral tradition of story telling as a means of passing information from one generation to the next. However, the core need for the story remains the same even today.
Despite all our progress in civilization, and technology in science and medicine, we still face the same problem, rich, poor, black, yellow, white, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Islamic, Agnostic, from the moment we are born, the animal in us knows at a cellular level that the biological clock has started to tick and that we are going to die. Our mind, our ego immediately says “Are you kidding? No way can I accept the concept that I have no power of this inevitability whatsoever.” At this cellular level, this animal level, we know our fear of death and yet our minds spend the whole of our lives scrambling to create any illusion, be it mythologies, religions, belief systems, philosophies, identifying the qualify and quantify our values as better låooking, smarter, more legitimate than other human beings, governing systems as the best, our possessions as ours only, our buildings the tallest, our cars the fastest, our weapons the deadliest, our way of life the truest. Anything that supports the illusion that we do have some control over our life and by extension,… our death.
If we look at our history on this planet besides the instinctive need to feed ourselves and procreate, our every energy has been bent on this one course “How to reconcile our living with our dying”. Our great teachers, who are our great story tellers, Christ, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, and others, identified a response to our shared fear of this mortality. It runs through all their teachings. Teachings that were first handed down, interpreted, reinterpreted over and over again in our oral traditions of story telling later re-interpreted yet again. Written in words, still later enshrined in the rituals, in the dress up, in the politics and bureaucracy of modern religions and however different these belief systems may seem at their core, they provide the same answer.
You have come here to this room because you have identified a common need,… in this case it’s a battle to cure, to over come, to contain HIV/AIDS. You have come here with express purpose of doing something to impact on this scourge on the world and to impact the fear. You have come together in order to know that you can make a difference, and you do… and you have… and you can… and you will with your generous support, your hard work and your acknowledging what the world governments have too long tried to ignore (clapping and cheering).
However, beyond that, way beyond that, in an act of community and compassion, your very act of coming together accomplishes something even greater. It tells a story. A story not just for those infected by and suffering from HIV/AIDS but a story for yourself,… a story that you’ll pass on to your children, to your children’s children. It is the story of being able in the face of our fear to recognize our commonality, our oneness with the rest of humanity, our capacity for compassion and our ability to experience our hearts and our love by actively acknowledging our oneness with our fellow man,… in the face of our fear. This is no small thing, because HIV is not the first and certainly will not be the last of the scourges to face humanity. Due to population explosion, aero plane travel, pollution and using up of the earth’s finite resources, thousands of species of life are dying off every day. These species, our hosts to many forms of life, that have to find other hosts, other ways to survive and many of these forms have lived far longer than the human being. In the competitive world of existence, it’s a pretty good bet that they will continue to do so.
Now, the HIV virus may be one such form, SARS- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, maybe the most recent. These are viruses that have learned to adapt, to mutate in order to survive on this crowding planet. It may very well be that while the present day SARS is already mutating. The next SARS will take half the time to incubate, infect and spread if that is what is necessary for that particular virus to survive. And look at how we have react to SARS with deaths in the hundreds. The world health organizations strive to quarantine millions. In the face of an initial denial that hopefully has passed, perhaps we, because SARS is so immediate in its impact and projected devastation, not as easy to deny as HIV that takes a longer time, sometimes years to manifest its destructive capabilities, all the while showing the uncanny ability to mutate, adapt, to survive the medicines we throw at it.
For years the Pediatric AIDS Foundation has recognized the countries such as Russia, India, China and many, many other smaller countries do not have the information structure to disseminate the information or medication or to accurately estimate their rates of infection. They have been under reporting their numbers and therefore, the pending devastation that we are all vulnerable to socially, medically, economically and spiritually. In spite of 15 years of continuing denial by our own government leaders, logic tells us this is an ongoing battle. This is our planets way of life and its way of death. Our great teachers, our story tellers, studied, learned about fear and this is where it becomes so important, so important (pointing to sections of the audience), so important. They learn that to turn away from our fear, to indulge our minds need to deny the foot of fear in our anger, our rage, our hate, our bigotry and all the manifestations of our depression, self indulgence, pride, envy, self loathing, is to be in hell. They recognize that when we can acknowledge our fear, forgive ourselves our inability to impact our mortality, then we can find compassion for ourselves in our uniquely human predicament of having to reconcile our living with our dying. And, in that compassion, we can find our hearts, our love for ourselves and by extension, our love for our fellow man. What is more, they understood that without fear, without having to negotiate fears existence within our lives, we would not be able to experience our compassion, our heart, our capacity for love. They understood that we could proceed as humans, go to a place of awareness, a place of awareness that could allow us to identify with our fear. Not to say I am afraid, I am scared as if that was my identity, that was all of who I was, but rather to say a part of me, a part of me is scared. And that there is another part of me that can see that happening to me and that part that can see that, that can see all the other parts of me, that part can watch me think, feel, stand here talking to you; that part of you that can see yourself, right now, listening to me, that part of us, that place of awareness is who we really are; the part of each of all of us that allows us to see that other part that is scared. That part, that part then allows us to have compassion for ourselves in this our human predicament. That part that allows us to honor our fear as a path, a means to our heart that allows us to understand that without our fear, there is no love and without our love there is no fear, allows us to understand that our fear is here for a reason. In the face of our fear, our ability to embrace HIV, SARS and whatever next comes down the pike, as opportunities for us to experience ourselves as one people, one planet, is our salvation.
These opportunities, opportunities and our ability to open our eyes to the hunger, the disease, the suffering, the disregard for our planet and each other, is our only way forward. These are not flowery words to be relinquished to Sunday sermons or wishful thinkers. These are real truths of our power should we have the courage to acknowledge them. If we can learn that fear is not our enemy, that it’s here for a reason, it will make us stronger. If we choose not to deny or ignore it, if we choose to accept it, we will find our compassion through it and then… all things are possible.
I thank you for this honor. I have yet to achieve a lifetime of achievements; at least, I hope that’s the case. What I have perhaps achieved, is a sense of what I’d like to achieve, so to that extent, I thank you. For the example you set to all of us as to what can be done, I thank you and ask only… that you do more.
We can always do more. Thank you.
(A standing ovation as Paul leaves the stage)