An Evening of Angels, Reflection and Looking Forward

March 30, 2012

David Ernesto Munar, president/CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, speaks at the 2012 Dinner with Tony Kushner. AFC Photos-Ed Negron

Below are David Ernesto Munar's remarks from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's 2012 Dinner with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, who wrote Angels in America. The dinner was held on March 27, 2012, at the Hilton Chicago, and raised more than $100,000 for HIV/AIDS services throughout Chicago.

To view Ed Negron's pictures from the dinner, go to AFC's Flickr page.




Good evening, everyone.

It’s great to see so many incredible friends and supporters.  I’m David Ernesto Munar, president and CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

It’s my pleasure to welcome you to our 2012 Dinner Program.  Tonight we celebrate the angels among us — and there are many.

Let’s start with our guest of honor, Mr. Tony Kushner.

A prolific author and playwright, Tony’s work explores the depths of the human experience.  His characters test their mettle in the face of adversity.  Whether challenged by war, conflict, illness or love, his characters expose unmapped flaws and hidden virtues.

Angels in America, his award-winning masterpiece, spins a thrilling tale of the beauty and tragedy of the early days of the AIDS epidemic.  It is poignant, heart-wrenching and wickedly funny.  And I’ve yet to experience Angels without bursts of laughter and moments choking back the tears.

Tony, thank you for using your talents to educate audiences worldwide about the love, loss and courage experienced by all of us living with and affected by HIV.  We are enormously grateful for your generosity in joining us this evening.  And we all look forward to hearing your thoughts later in the program.

Special thanks go to Steve, Charlie and all the great folks at the Court Theatre for their incredible partnership with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

The Court has graciously reserved opening night of its production of Angels in America to benefit AFC.  Please join us on Saturday, April 14th for Parts 1 and 2 of Angels with a dinner intermission.  This performing-arts marathon is not to be missed!

I’ve been thinking a lot about angels lately – thank you very much, Mr. Kushner.

Not the fluffy winged cherubs, but ordinary men and women who do extra-ordinary things with their lives, talents, resources and circumstances. People like Dr. Lisa Henry-Reid and Gary Metzner.

Tonight, we will proudly celebrate their selfless leadership.

Gary and Lisa, I’ve learned so much from both of you and am humbled and inspired by your mission-driven work and lives.  The AIDS community is fortunate to count on your abundant energy and commitment.

At AFC, we call on angels every day to help advance the mission.  Our caring volunteers, generous donors, partnering agencies, service professionals, and tens of thousands of inspiring clients are at the heart of all we do.

For example, to improve AIDS-related public policy, we rely on the assistance of brave public officials.  Please join me in recognizing just a few of our champions among us:  44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney; Water Reclamation Commissioner Debra Shore; Democratic Committeewoman Carol Ronen; Director of the Federal Insurance Office and AFC Board member Michael McRaith; and the Chicago Commissioner of Health, Dr. Bechara Choucair.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the trailblazing dancers, marathoners, triathletes, walkers, and chocolatiers – among many others – who keep diverse sectors of Chicago engaged in the AIDS fight.

Tonight’s program would not be possible without the generous sponsorship of many angels: BMO Harris Bank, McDonald’s, American Airlines, BBJ Linen, Bell Litho, the Hilton Chicago, Kehoe Designs, Wilde and Lady Gregory’s Restaurants, Janssen Therapeutics, McCormick Foundation, Sotheby’s, Walgreens, Chase Bank, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Macy’s and Merrill Lynch.  Special thanks to our media sponsors: Best Gay Chicago, GRAB Magazine, TimeOut, Windy City Media Group, and

And to the dedicated table captains, Board and Jr. Board members, and the talented AFC staff, I cannot thank you enough for all you do.

Please give them all a warm round of applause.

Angels got me thinking of all those who have helped me over the course of my 17 years living with HIV.

People like Armando, Mark, and Román - my dearest friends; others living openly with HIV who gave me guidance and courage; and my doctor of 20 years who has stood by me through harrowing times. I’m grateful he’s here tonight, Dr. Ross Slotten.  Ross, thank you for your caring dedication.  I hope you know what a difference you’ve made in my life and for so many others.

Like so many of my peers, I’m fortunate to have survived the early, dark days depicted in Angels in America.  Back then, experimental HIV treatments offered little longevity but mountains of hope against the stigmatizing affliction that most certainly ended in death.

But thanks to a community that simply would not give up, times have changed.

For those with treatment access, today’s HIV medications can renew health and even stop the spread of new infections.  That’s why unfettered access to healthcare and support services is so critically important for the 1.2 million Americans with HIV.  But tragically, only half of all people with HIV gain access to regular medical care.  That means that only about 20,000 of the estimated 45,000 HIV-positive Illinoisans benefit from state-of-the-art medical services.  Healthcare inequality and stigma remain the primary reasons why so few people with HIV benefit clinically.

As the Supreme Court weighs the merits of the federal health reform law, I hope they are visited by Prior Walter’s mesmerizing angel.  The prophetic clarion message might go something like this: Stopping AIDS in America depends on all, all, ALL people having access to healthcare and preventative services, plain and simple!

Now I recognize that implementation of the health reform law is not nearly enough and greater reforms and public-health investments are desperately needed.  But without health reform, we simply cannot turn the tide against HIV in our country.

So for all you angels in the room, please remember the difficult work that lies ahead for our state and nation.

We finally have the tools at our disposal to make a significant difference in curbing the epidemic.  Now the question remains whether we can muster the economic and political will to do what is right.

At the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, we believe we can.  But our work in advocacy, prevention education, and coordinated care and treatment must expand like never before. 
With a chorus of change-agents, like you, I know we can make a world of difference!

Angels are defined as patrons, messengers, truth tellers, guardians, agents of a higher power: Tony, what a fitting metaphor you created for the grace kindled in respond to the AIDS epidemic.

Thank you, all, for attending this evening.

I’ll be back on stage in a few minutes to present our first honoree.

Enjoy your dinner.


Playwright Tony Kushner waves to the crowd at the 2012 Dinner.

Categorized under Inside Story.

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