Out singer Elton John has credited Ryan
White for changing his life around.
White became the poster child for
HIV/AIDS after his Russiaville, Indiana middle school expelled him
when he contracted the disease from a blood transfusion to treat
hemophilia. He died one month before his high school graduation.
Had he survived, White would have been 43 on December 6.
discussion which included Philip Galanes of The New York Times
and Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, John, whose
Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised more than $300 million, said
that he was “ashamed” that he “did nothing” at the start of
the AIDS epidemic.
“I was surprised to learn that it was
Ryan White who opened your eyes about AIDS, Elton,” Galanes said.
“Why not the thousands of gay men who were dying all around you?”
“I'm ashamed to say that when the
AIDS epidemic started, I did nothing,” John said. “I was taking
a lot of drugs. It took this boy, Ryan White, who was being kept out
of public school because he had AIDS, to open my eyes. He and his
family moved me so much. They responded to their hardship with
acceptance and forgiveness – with the same values as our current
“Don't we love the pope?” Walker
“He's my new hero,” John answered.
“So, I was in Indianapolis in the
last week of Ryan's life. My life was crap, and I hated myself. I
would complain about this, complain about that. And this beautiful
boy never complained about getting AIDS. This may sound like a
sweeping statement, but he seemed like Jesus to me – kind and
forgiving and full of love. It took a child to die before this
country stood up and took any notice of AIDS,” John said.
“And within two years of Ryan's
death, you're clean and sober, and you started the Elton John AIDS
Foundation?” Galanes asked.
“Yes,” John responded, “in 1992.”