Wednesday, March 23, 2011

RIP, Elizabeth Taylor...

The stars in the Hollywood firmament dulled a little this morning with the death of screen legend Elizabeth Taylor. She had been suffering from various health problems for many years, and finally succumbed to congestive heart failure at the age of 79, surrounded by her four children.

Elizabeth Taylor was many things.

A true beauty, particularly in her younger years.

A dazzling actress, who turned in legendary performances from childhood through adulthood, in everything from National Velvet to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer and A Place in the Sun, among many others.

A larger-than-life celebrity, whose ups and downs in her personal life truly captivated a nation, and who was a steadfast friend to many who seemed to need it.

One of Elizabeth Taylor's greatest roles, however, was that of activist. Following the AIDS-related death of close friend Rock Hudson, she helped start the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and created her own AIDS foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation. She convinced many celebrities and charitable organizations to give money to support research, treatment and prevention. But more than that, she convinced people that those suffering from HIV and AIDS should not be shunned, but embraced as human beings.

amfAR posted a powerful tribute to Taylor on its web site following her death.

They also released the following statement:

"The board of trustees and staff of amfAR mourn the passing of our beloved Founding International Chairman, Dame Elizabeth Taylor. Dame Elizabeth was without doubt one of the most inspirational figures in the fight against AIDS. She was among the first to speak out on behalf of people living with HIV when others reacted with fear and often outright hostility. For 25 years, Dame Elizabeth has been a passionate advocate of AIDS research, treatment and care. She has testified eloquently on Capitol Hill, while raising millions of dollars for amfAR. Dame Elizabeth’s compassion, radiance, and generosity of spirit will be greatly missed by us all. She leaves a monumental legacy that has improved and extended millions of lives and will enrich countless more for generations to come."

It is not often that people use the opportunities they have been given in their lives to make the world a better place, but Elizabeth Taylor certainly did. A woman of her stature and celebrity could easily have pretended people with AIDS don't exist, but instead, she gave them endless love and support.

RIP, Dame Taylor. You truly touched the world with your heart and your generosity, as well as your beauty and talent.

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