Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, was a remarkable figure known the world over for her beauty, fashion, and for the sometimes-controversial causes she supported, like ending the use of landmines. Diana was known widely as “The People’s Princess”, due to the legacy of love and kindness that she left behind. Princess Diana showed kindness to many whom others would not. The Princess had an unlikely friendship with Mother Teresa, as they bonded over their shared dedication to helping the poor and less fortunate. Princess Diana’s desire to help those in need, exceeded the typical charitable acts seen by those of the Royal Family at the time. People were often touched profoundly by the depths of Diana’s compassion.
In the early 1980’s the world started dealing with a new healthcare epidemic. Clusters of a strange and unexplainable illnesses were impacting communities of previously healthy patients. By the end of 1981 there were over 3347 cases of a severe immune deficiency in the USA, that impacted adults and adolescents. Though people didn’t know it at the time these were the first cases of what would become known as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS. In the absence of knowledge human beings can be quite fearful. At the beginning of this growing health crisis our knowledge about AIDS and the HIV virus was limited, people were unclear as to how people contracted HIV/AIDS and this led to those who had HIV/AIDS being shunned, many refused to even touch them for fear of contracting the disease. Even after doctors had proven that HIV and AIDS couldn’t be transmitted by handshakes, many people refused to touch an HIV or AIDS patient without gloves, if at all.
On April 19, 1987 at London Middlesex Hospital, Diana arrived to open the United Kingdom’s first unit dedicated to treating people with HIV and AIDS. Images of Diana shaking the hand of an unidentified AIDS patient shook the world. Diana often used the unwanted media attention she got, to bring the world’s attention to matters of importance, challenging the public’s beliefs and opinions. Diana shared her platform in order to make a difference for others. Princess Diana gave the average person permission to shake hands with a person with HIV or AIDS, afterall if a Royal could do it, then anyone could.
Diana didn’t earn her name “The People’s Princess” lightly, in her short lifetime she was president or patron of more than 100 different charities touching on many important issues, her involvement going far beyond just shaking people’s hands. This moment of compassion and kindness demonstrated her leadership. The people loved Diana, because they knew that she cared about them, not by her words, but through her actions. Diana led by example. Princess Diana gave others permission to be kind and compassionate, and we loved her for it. I will never forget where I was when I got the news that the Princess had died. I mourned her passing with millions around the world, because the world dimmed a little when her candle went out. What will burn brightly forever is the legacy of love, kindness, and compassion Princess Diana left for us all to live by.