Miley Cyrus gives a speech at the 2015 amfAR Inspiration Gala in New York City on June 16, 2015.
Kevin Tachman—WireImage/Getty Images
By Miley Cyrus
June 18, 2015
IDEAS
Cyrus is a singer, songwriter, actress and philanthropist

This article was originally published on MIMI, a Time Inc. site.

Thank you so much, Tyler. I am honored to have such a beautiful date tonight that speaks just as beautifully.

As Tyler mentioned, we met when I was filming “Backyard Sessions” for the launch of Happy Hippie. And I got the privilege to shoot this incredible subject for Happy Hippies newest project #InstaPride that just launched yesterday as Tyler said (just gotta get the plug in there) and to now be standing here beside you tonight, this is so cosmic.

Getting the Inspiration Award tonight is an honor that is unbelievable. Seriously, I didn’t believe them when they told me because—to be honest—it seems just too easy. Seems like there is no way I have done nearly enough to be standing here on the receiving end of this honor. But I am thinking of tonight as not celebrating what we have already done, but what we are doing and going to do in the future! Tonight is not a finish line, but a starting point. I want to work every day to do something good for someone else or I will feel not only as if this honor has just been wasted, but my life and all the influence that comes with it. There are so many people around the world that deserve this recognition and have dedicated their lives to finding a cure for those living with HIV/AIDS and using their voices to speak out about the brutal and unfair condemnation and abominable stigma that comes with the disease. By receiving this award tonight, I promise to continue to fight along with such an industrious army for a cure to this epidemic.

There have been too many families, partners, friends, and animals that have lost someone they cherish from this illness. Someone they want to say “I love you” to right now. So let’s do that for them—on the count of three, let’s say “We love you” to the men, women, and children throughout the world who have died or are currently fighting for their lives because of HIV/AIDS. One, two, three—

It is so beautiful to hear you all say “I love you” to people who unfortunately—in many situations—don’t hear it nearly enough. 1.6 million young people are homeless each year and 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT. This community is disproportionately affected by this disease. Discrimination can lead to homelessness and once these young people are on the street, many young people find that exchanging sex for food, clothing, and shelter are their only chance of survival, putting them at a much greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

Inspiration is something that makes us feel or do something, especially something creative. amfAR and their amazing team of researchers have used their inventiveness and knowledge to help extend, improve, and save the lives of countless people around the world living with AIDS or vulnerable to the infection. amfAR has funded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide, and in addition to research, amfAR leadership also advances public policy and has helped pass federal legislation to provide people living with HIV the access to care they need and protect their dignity and rights.

My hero is not only a classic entertainer and icon, but is the founding international chairman of amfAR, Dame Elizabeth Taylor. She said, “With celebrity comes responsibility.” She was an illustration of someone who was committed to using their power and fame to bring awareness to something so much greater than her own power and fame.

When I found out I was receiving this award, I thought about just dedicating this award to the admirable life of Ms. Taylor, but it was never about her—she always directed the spotlight to those in need, she was a pioneer and spoke out against hypocrisy and discrimination, compassion, and care in a revolutionary time. For many Americans, it was Elizabeth Taylor who brought the issue of AIDS into the general mainstream. She, with Founding Chairman Dr. Krim and a small group of physicians and scientists, united to form the American Foundation for AIDS Research—amfAR.

Another woman who even though she was unable to be here with us tonight, amfAR and anyone who has said the “stone experience” knows that longtime supporter and Campaign Chair Sharon Stone is definitely here in spirit and maybe under the table pickpocketing you. (I am still not convinced it was the white wine last year that racked up such a bill.) Sharon’s audaciousness makes her one of amfAR most effective spokespeople at the 2014 Cinema Against AIDS event. She helped raise a record $35 million in a single evening. (So don’t be cheap tonight, people—Sharon is watching from nanny cams and has tonight’s roster of attendees with your name, number, and home address—and possibly banking information.)

Chairman of the Board, Mr. Kenneth Cole—I would like to say thank you for all that you do and for this honor tonight. Happy Hippie and I look forward to all that we can do together in and for the future.

And everyone on team Happy Hippie—the future is a blank canvas and I am lucky to be surrounded by artists as devoted and benevolent as you.

Before I finish, I just want to say a few final thank-you’s—

John Dempsey and everyone at MAC Cosmetics and MAC AIDS Fund, thank you so much for introducing me to the amazing people of amfAR and for using your immense brand for making such an impact on the future of HIV/AIDS and those affected. As a little girl, it wasn’t a dream of mine to be the face of a lipstick, but it was a dream of mine to change the world! A quote from John Lennon I love and use way too often is, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream, but a dream you dream together is a reality.” Thank you.

My mom and dad—who are out of the house tonight, which is rare—looks so handsome and beautiful. I want to tell you how much I love you, and how I hope I make you proud. And this makes up for all the torture I’ve put you through. I’m sure being my parents hasn’t been easy, but you are two of the most selfless people and have always taught me and my siblings how important it is to be there for those who need us, how important it is to care. They say you don’t chose your family, but I would pick mine every time. I’d like to think even if you weren’t my mom and dad, we would still be sitting in this room together right now on a quest for a cure. One of my favorite quotes is from another heroine of mine, Audrey Hepburn, who said, “As you grow older, you will discover you have two hands. One for help yourself and one for helping others.” Thank you for instilling the proper priorities in me.

I hope one day I am here on earth to experience an AIDS-free world. And I am honored to have even been a twinkle in the diamond sky of this dream that will be a reality because of the people in this room.

This is a horrible and ghastly disease, and outside of this room there are millions of people—young, old, of all races and genders—who are waiting for a cure to this illness that has brought us all together tonight, and for that I feel thankful. I feel so grateful to be in a room full of so many people who care about other people because unfortunately, that is too rare in the world we live in. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to be standing up here receiving this award tonight. Again, this is a privilege and honor, and amfAR, I will not let this—my life, your dedication and hard work, and all of these valuable souls—go to waste. We will continue to fight against judgement and we will find a cure for HIV/AIDS.

Thank you everyone for tonight.

Read next: Miley Cyrus: ‘You Can Just Be Whatever You Want to Be’

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