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Hattoy, Robert (1950-2007)  
 
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Bob Hattoy was a passionate activist for glbtq rights and the environment. After joining the 1992 Presidential campaign of Bill Clinton as an environmental adviser, he was diagnosed with AIDS. At the Democratic National Convention that year he gave a moving and memorable speech, identifying himself as a gay man with AIDS and calling for an active response to the crisis.

The Hattoy family hailed from Providence, Rhode Island, where Robert Keith Hattoy was born on November 1, 1950, but they moved to California when the boy was a teen.

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A classmate and fellow band member at Long Beach High School recalled that the band leader "used to scream all the time, "Hattoy, shut up!'"

Shutting up was not Hattoy's style.

After his graduation, he attended several universities but did not complete a degree. His passions were the environment and politics, and he eventually landed a job on the staff of Los Angeles city councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, in which capacity he worked on both environmental and rent-control issues.

Hattoy next took a position with the Sierra Club, an environmental protection organization, in 1981. The timing seemed poor since it came in the early years of the administration of Ronald Reagan, no particular friend of the environmental movement, and the fit of the irrepressible and outspoken Hattoy with the Sierra Club, generally regarded as well-intentioned but stodgy, appeared unlikely at best.

Neither of these factors daunted Hattoy. "Bob refused to get glum about everything or to say woe is we, which many were doing. He plunged into battles to protect the California coast as a happy warrior," said Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.

Because of his energy and wit, combined with his abiding commitment to the cause of safeguarding the environment, Hattoy "humanized the Sierra Club, which had often been thought of as an austere bunch of mountaineers like John Muir [the club's founder] who only cared about rivers and mountains and didn't really relate to ordinary people who lived in cities. He put a different face on the Sierra Club," declared Mary Nichols, who knew him from his early days with the organization and later became an assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

When Arkansas governor Bill Clinton needed an environmental consultant for his staff as he launched a bid for the Presidency in 1991, he offered the job to Hattoy, who brought his characteristic verve to the work.

While on a campaign swing to Oregon in May 1992, however, Hattoy, who had been diagnosed as HIV-positive two years earlier, found a lump under his right arm and returned home to Los Angeles for medical attention. The test results were dire, showing lymphoma and AIDS.

Hattoy undertook a chemotherapy regime that eventually was successful in treating the lymphoma.

Soon after the diagnosis, Hattoy met with Clinton to apprise him of the situation. The subsequent conversation was an emotional one, in which Hattoy spoke not only of the devastating impact of learning that he had AIDS but also of the years of pain he had had, coming from "a completely dysfunctional nonsupportive family."

Hattoy and Clinton shared memories about living with abusive fathers. Their talk ended with a hug and a challenge: Clinton asked Hattoy to address the Democratic National Convention in New York City on the subject of AIDS. Hattoy readily agreed.

He was one of two people to speak at the convention on the topic, the other being Elizabeth Glaser, the wife of actor Paul Michael Glaser. She had contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion eleven years earlier and unwittingly passed it to the couple's daughter, who died in 1988, and their son, then seven years old.

Glaser called AIDS "everyone's problem" and spoke movingly of the death of her daughter and the grim prospects for her son and herself.

If Glaser spoke--appropriately--about the impact of AIDS on her own family, Hattoy evoked a larger one. Identifying himself as a gay man with AIDS, he stated, "The gay and lesbian community is an American family in the best sense of the word. . . . We are part of the American family, and, Mr. President [referring to George H. W. Bush], your family has AIDS."

Hattoy further chastised the preceding Republican administrations for their shameful failures to respond to the AIDS crisis. "The first case was detected in 1981, but it took 40,000 deaths and seven years for Ronald Reagan to say the word 'AIDS,'" he noted. "It's five years later, 70,000 more dead, and George Bush doesn't talk about AIDS, much less do anything about it."

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