THE BLOG

World AIDS Day: Overcoming Fear of Failure and Fear of Success

12/01/2012 08:53 pm ET | Updated Jan 31, 2013

Today the National AIDS Memorial Grove gave a "Leadership Through Service" award to my mom, US House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. I had the honor of accepting on her behalf, and shared these remarks about overcoming fear of failure and fear of success in order to welcome hope on World AIDS Day.

Thank you Michael Shriver, thank you all so much. It's so wonderful to be back in the National AIDS Memorial Grove. It's where I came with my mom on a workday with Alice Russell-Shapiro years ago, it's where my daughter Isabella climbed her first tree, and it's where we have planted many trees for friends gone to the epidemic -- my cousin Susan, our dear friend Scott Douglass, and so many people who worked with the office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. And it's exciting for me to be here with two members of our extended family members, "Uncle Fun" Tom Kelley -- who has been living with HIV for 30 years and is active with Project Inform -- and of course the district director of the office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi -- Dan Bernal -- who has been HIV positive for 22 years.

In thanking you and sending a message from my mom, I wanted to talk briefly today about the choice of choosing hope over fear, and two specific types of fear.

The first is the fear of failure. The fear that comes with that first diagnosis. What if the stigma, racism and discrimination will cause me to live a life that is shortened by disease and stricken by hate? What if I am unable to get the services that I need because I cannot afford them?

As we are here in San Francisco on Nancy Pelosi Drive at the intersection of JFK and MLK, I offer 3 quotes about hope overcoming fear.

The first quote is from John F Kennedy. As we're celebrating World AIDS Day, a quote that my mom always likes to share from the Inaugural address. Everybody remembers the first line of the quote "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for our country. " The second line is "to the citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but what we can do together for the freedom of man." That's what World AIDS Day is all about.

The second quote is from Martin Luther King in his Letter from a Birmingham jail. He talks about how "we are all bound together in a single garment of destiny." In the context of AIDS that's the AIDS Quilt but it 's also the work we do together with the understanding that one person with AIDS is one person too many. I'm wearing this tee-shirt for the ONE Moms -- a group I just started volunteering with. The tee-shirt says "it only takes one mom" -- we know that it takes each and every mom to make a difference in the lives of her children. We were in Washington, DC this week with the ONE Moms http://www.one.org/us/category/one-moms/ urging Congress not to throw people with AIDS off the fiscal cliff, remembering that less than 1 percent of the United States budget is spent on foreign aid programs that alleviate poverty, so when you talk about a fiscal cliff that would literally cost lives in America and around the world, we just can't let that happen because we are under a single garment of destiny that we weave together.

And the third quote comes from Nancy Pelosi, particularly to the young people here today. When I was writing my book CAMPAIGN BOOT CAMP, I asked my mom "what is your call to service?" and she said "when people ask me why I serve, I always say 'our children, our children, our children. The air they breathe, the water they drink, that they like in a happy and healthy community.'" And when we think about why we do what we do, it is for "our children" that we must have a future without AIDS but also a world without fear.

A world without fear of failure. But also without fear of success.

Tom remembers this. Many of his friends and [1980s] contemporaries who were given what was then a death sentence but barely made it out of the AZT into the Compound Q, into the [AIDS} cocktail {regimen], all of a sudden they had to take yes for an answer. As one of my friends said, "I had to go from being the dying diva to paying off my credit cards. I had to start living again."

And what if we stopped sabotaging ourselves as a country and as a world and actually broke down the homophobia -- the fear of each other -- and instead said we could succeed? What if we were not afraid to succeed at peace so we couldn't use war as an excuse? What if we were able to overcome the fear of the other and actually be forced to live with each other as equals? What if we were to overcome the fear of success and actually find a cure for AIDS so that we could give life a chance and give everybody a chance in life?

And when we overcome those fears, that's when we can see hope. And that's what the National AIDS Memorial Grove does. Every time we plant a seed we plant a seed of hope. Every time we plant a tree here, we plant a tree saying goodbye to fear and saying we welcome hope. We are willing to take yes for an answer. We are willing to take life for an answer. We are willing to take each other and be part of one human family together. That is what we do here at the AIDS Memorial, at this national memorial -- and that is what Nancy Pelosi does as your, as my, as our representative of San Francisco values in the Congress of the United States. That's why I am so honored to get to be here today and accept this award and join in the chorus of hope over fear. Thank you so much.