August 12, 2002
My Dear Friends, Colleagues and Fans:
My physicians have recently told me I may have a neurological disorder whose symptoms are consistent with Alzheimer`s disease. So... I wanted to prepare a few words for you now, because when the time comes, I may not be able to.
I`ve lived my whole life on the stage and screen before you. I`ve found purpose and meaning in your response. For an actor there`s no greater loss than the loss of his audience. I can part the Red Sea, but I can`t part with you, which is why I won`t exclude you from this stage in my life.
For now, I`m not changing anything. I`ll insist on work when I can; the doctors will insist on rest when I must. If you see a little less spring in my step, if your name fails to leap to my lips, you`ll know why. And if I tell you a funny story for the second time, please laugh anyway.
I`m neither giving up nor giving in. I believe I`m still the fighter that Dr. King and JFK and Ronald Reagan knew, but it`s a fight I must someday call a draw. I must reconcile courage and surrender in equal measure. Please feel no sympathy for me. I don`t. I just may be a little less accessible to you, despite my wishes.
I also want you to know that I`m grateful beyond measure. My life has been blessed with good fortune. I`m grateful that I was born in America, that cradle of freedom and opportunity, where a kid from the Michigan Northwoods can work hard and make something of his life. I`m grateful for the gift of the greatest words ever written, that let me share with you the infinite scope of the human experience. As an actor, I`m thankful that I`ve lived not one life, but many.
Above all, I`m proud of my family... my wife Lydia, the queen of my heart, my children, Fraser and Holly, and my beloved grandchildren, Jack, Ridley and Charlie. They`re my biggest fans, my toughest critics and my proudest achievement. Through them, I can touch immortality.
Finally, I`m confident about the future of America. I believe in you. I know that the future of our country, our culture and our children is in good hands. I know you will continue to meet adversity with strength and resilience, as our ancestors did, and come through with flying colors - the ones on Old Glory.
William Shakespeare, at the end of his career, wrote his farewell through the words of Prospero, in The Tempest. It ends like this:
Be cheerful, sir. Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp`d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.
Thank you, and God bless you, everyone.