Monday, October 4, 2010

Mary Fisher's "A Whisper of AIDS" Analysis

In the news today, there are constant references to HIV and AIDS and ways to prevent the spread of these viruses. To a younger audience, it may seem as if AIDS has always been a recognized disease and scientists have been struggling for decades to find a cure. However, AIDS wasn’t officially discovered until 1982 and even then many people were afraid to talk about it. The virus had negative connotations attached to it (i.e. only gays or drugs users could get infected) and it wasn’t until twenty years ago that people really started pushing to educate others about AIDS. Mary Fisher, activist, is HIV-positive and her speech, “A Whisper of AIDS,” was given at the 1992 Republican National Convention to expose AIDS to the public. However, despite her inspiring words and strong recitation, her speech is ineffective in urging people to action.

Fisher represents the HIV/AIDS community with pride and surety when she asks the audience to “set aside prejudice and politics to make room for compassion and sound policy.” Although this is a rational demand, Fisher makes no further effort to describe how her audience could proactively address the issue of HIV/AIDS. She doesn’t emphasize birth control or ask for scientific research to discover a cure. The closest Fisher gets to asking for action is stating, "In the context of an election year, I ask you... to recognize that the AIDS virus is not a political creature." This is the extent of her call to action. She doesn't ask for a bill to be passed through Congress or more money to fund AIDS organizations. She simply asks for recognition of the virus. While this approach may seem like enough, 23,411 people died from AIDS in 1992. That number should dictate quick action, not meaningless words. She asks for her audience to "reach out for compassion," and she goes on to say that "it is our task to seek safety for our children, not in quiet denial, but in effective action." However, she never describes what this action is.

Fisher's calm and confident appearance contradicts her message of hardship (Fig. 1). She outlines the negative aspects of AIDS and the suffering the infected have to endure. It's hard for any audience to comprehend the impact of HIV/AIDS without a direct visual. Some may disregard her call to action because she doesn't provide concrete images which depict the suffering caused by AIDS.

Figure 1. Mary Fisher. "A Whisper of AIDS." 1992 Republican National Convention. Houston, TX. 19 Aug. 1992. American Rhetoric. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.

It is difficult for someone unaffected by the AIDS virus to sympathize with Fisher when her physical appearance doesn't portray someone with a serious illness. The way she presents her speech is logical but not passionate enough from someone who is directly affected by HIV/AIDS. While the audience is supportive, they don't give the impression that they are inspired to action (Fig. 1).

Although Fisher's speech is somewhat motivational, it doesn't emphasize a specific call to action. Fisher raises the level of awareness about AIDS, but she doesn't push for a cure or prevention. This speech opened the nation's eyes to the epidemic of AIDS because it was one of the initial public exposures to the virus. As such, it should have clearly stressed the importance of halting the spread of the infection.

Work Cited

Fisher, Mary. "A Whisper of AIDS." 1992 Republican National Convention. Houston,
TX. 19 Aug. 1992. American Rhetoric. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.

Works Consulted

Fisher, Mary. Mary Fisher Productions. Mary Fisher Productions, Inc., n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.

"Timeline: A Brief History of AIDS." AEGiS. AIDS Education Global Information
System, n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.