What I Told My Daughter by Nina Tassler

What I Told My Daughter by Nina Tassler

Author:Nina Tassler
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Atria Books

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Brooke Shields is an actress and author of the memoirs There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me and Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression.

Learning from Tragedy


Former first lady

From the time they were tiny babies, I wanted to protect my daughters. I wanted to comfort them if they scraped their knees or if they bruised their hearts. On the terrible morning of 9/11, I made my first telephone calls to them. But sometimes seeing the worst can bring out the very best.

In 2003, my daughter Barbara accompanied George and me to Africa. Experts had been predicting that by 2008, 80 million people would be infected with the AIDS virus. My husband responded by unveiling the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the largest international health initiative ever directed at a single disease. PEPFAR committed $15 billion over five years to prevent new infections, to treat those already infected with AIDS, and to care for children orphaned by the loss of a parent to AIDS.

Now, a few months after the announcement, we were going to Africa to see AIDS’s devastating toll firsthand. In a pediatric clinic in the nation of Botswana, Barbara and I met a mother who had brought her little girl in for treatment. She had dressed her daughter like an angel, in a lovely lavender-and-white dress to meet the American president. This sweet little child lay on an examining table, so frail and sick. Her mother’s last hope was to make her beautiful. At another stop, Barbara became enchanted by a second little girl. The child was eager and curious, but she could barely stand, so she stayed balanced on her mother’s lap. Barbara thought she must be a toddler, but she soon learned that this bright-eyed little girl was in fact seven years old. She was just so terribly small and fragile from the ravages of AIDS.

I understood immediately that these mothers were just like me, they wanted to protect their daughters. But until better medicine and medical care could reach them, their precious children were largely beyond protecting. Barbara understood it too. She wanted to find a way to be their comforter and then their protector. But her path was winding, as it almost always is when it ultimately leads to something truly worthwhile.

Barbara went back to school at Yale and enrolled in the university’s comprehensive survey course on AIDS, so that she could learn as much about the disease as possible. Then in 2005, after she had graduated, she moved to Cape Town, South Africa, and began working at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, which treated a great number of children with AIDS. She was able to help and to provide individual care, but she still yearned for a way to do more.

After South Africa, Barbara moved to New York and took a job at the Cooper Hewitt museum to follow her love of design, but she never stopped thinking of those children—or of how very much they needed.


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