Remarks of Lorri L. Jean, Chief Executive Officer, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
Opening Ceremonies of AIDS/LifeCycle 10, Jun 5, 2011
Hello Riders! Hello Roadies! Welcome to AIDS Life Cycle 10!
I can’t believe that Day 1 is finally here! And I can’t believe how early we all had to get up! But what better reason to arise at the crack of dawn than AIDS/LifeCycle 10!? And Hail Hallelujah it is not raining! Thank you mother nature! But after talking with so many of you yesterday I know that you would have been here even if it were raining! The first year I rode, a long time veteran told me how she had survived the years when mother nature sent challenges our way. Rain, heat, headwinds, fire. She said she thought about people with HIV and AIDS who never have the option of saying things like, “It’s too rainy today for me to have AIDS.” Or “Today my body is going to take a break from struggling with HIV.” That helped her to persevere. All of you had the option not to be here this morning. But you’re here. You stuck with it. To me, that alone already makes me love every single one of you.
Today you are part of an historic legacy. For 10 years as the AIDS/LifeCycle and 8 years as the California AIDS Ride, we have gathered in San Francisco to begin. And here we are again. Finally…after many months of preparation—visiting the bike shops, fundraising, training, occasional tears and even a little panic—you’ve all made it. One of the most inspirational journeys of your life is about to begin.
And this year in honor of the 10th AIDS/LifeCycle, many of our veterans have returned. In fact, half of our cyclists have done this ride before! It’s so great to have you back! We also have approximately 1180 AIDS ride virgins with us this year! Welcome! All of you, newbies and veterans alike, are phenomenal. And the same holds true for our roadies. This year we have 567 roadies who are doing everything they can to help you get to camp safely and take care of you when you do.
Thanks to ALL of you for everything you’ve done to get here and for what you make possible. Your hard work enables the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation to make a vital difference in the fight against AIDS. We celebrate your spectacular achievement!
But today is also a somber occasion. Thirty years ago this very day the Centers for Disease Control announced the first cases of AIDS, although that term had not yet been coined. Those first cases were 5 California gay men from Los Angeles. Two had already died. Over the next 30 years, they would be followed by millions more, in San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Denver, Phoenix…cities large and small all over the nation and around the world. Today, more than one million Americans are living with HIV. Nearly 60,000 Americans become infected every year. Clearly, our quest to end AIDS far from over. But that’s where you come in.
The AIDS/LifeCycle says we are NOT giving up. You are an inspiration to people all over the world. In fact, I have a very special letter here from one of your biggest fans. You may know her better as former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi has been a staunch ally since the earliest days of the epidemic. In fact, in her very first speech on the House floor she announced that she had come to Congress to right AIDS. And indeed she has! Over the years as she rose through the ranks to the pinnacle of Congressional power, she never forgot us. She fought to maintain and enhance funding so that people with AIDS all over the country would be cared for, to do cutting edge research and for HIV prevention.
Her letter is too long to quote in full, but you can read every word of it on our ALC website. This morning, though, I want to share some of the most moving parts. Pelosi acknowledged the anguish we all felt from the very start of this epidemic. Then she goes on to say:
We were united then, and stand united today, in our drive to make this disease just a memory. Despite the pain of these last three decades, there remain glimmers of hope: a growing chorus of advocates, activists, concerned citizens, and even cyclists have joined the fight to end HIV/AIDS. On this anniversary, let’s redouble our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS with inspiration from those who we’ve lost, with determination, compassion, and hope. Let’s ride together toward a day when we mark not the first diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, but celebrate the end of this pandemic.
Nancy joins us in hoping that day of celebration comes soon. But for now, we must focus on the week ahead.
Over the next seven days you will encounter many challenges. You will face hills and traffic, wind and weather, unpredictable elements of every kind. You will be called upon to find reserves you didn’t know you had. You will laugh and you will cry and you will persevere. And in the process, all of us will experience a transformation. Over the next week, no matter our differences, no matter our age, our race, our gender, our sexual orientation, our HIV status, we will become a community. A community of people dedicated to one single goal: making a difference in the fight against AIDS.
All of you give me hope that someday we will end AIDS. And this morning as we prepare to hit the road, I want you to feel that hope and more. I want you to feel pride. Pride at the support of your friends and loved ones who helped you get here. Pride at your own courage and tenacity.
Pride at your commitment to do something meaningful and important—something that makes a tremendous difference in the lives of thousands of people who rely upon the services of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. For them, this event means a lot more than having a fun and challenging and extremely inspiring week. For many of them, this week literally makes the difference between life and death. Because of YOUR dedication and commitment, they can have hope too.
For that, you have my greatest respect and admiration.
It’s finally time. Time to begin the journey for which you’ve worked so hard.
Are you ready? Are you ready??? Riders…start your engines! On behalf of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, I now declare AIDS/LifeCycle 10 officially OPEN to the road.