So tonight I’m hopeful. Because of the activism I see in this room, and because of the compassion I’ve seen all across America. And because of the progress we have made throughout our history, including the history of the movement for LGBT equality.
Soon after the protests at Stonewall, 40 years ago, the phone rang in the home of a soft-spoken elementary school teacher named Jeanne Manford. It was one in the morning. And it was the police. Now, her son Morty had been at the Stonewall the night of the raids. And ever since he had felt within him a new sense of purpose. So when the officer told Jeanne that her son had been arrested, which was happening often to gay protesters, she was not entirely caught off guard. And then the officer added one more thing: “And you know, he’s homosexual.”
Well, that police officer sure was surprised when Jeanne responded, “Yes, I know. Why are you bothering him?”
And not long after, Jeanne would be marching side-by-side with her son through the streets of New York. She carried a sign that stated her support. People cheered, and young men and women ran up to her and kissed her and asked her to talk to their parents. And this gave Jeanne and Morty an idea. So after that march, on the anniversary of the Stonewall protests, amidst the violence and vitriol of a difficult time for our nation, Jeanne and her husband Jules, two parents who loved their son deeply, formed a group to support other parents—and in turn to support their children as well.
At the first meeting Jeanne held, in 1973, about 20 people showed up. But slowly, interest grew. Morty’s life, tragically, was cut short by AIDS. But the cause endured. And today the organization they founded— Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays—has more than 200,000 members and supporters, and has made a difference for countless families across America. And Jeanne would later say, “I considered myself such a traditional person. I didn’t even cross the street against the light” … “But I wasn’t going to let anybody walk over Morty.”
And that’s the story of America, of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, and advocating for change. Of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury. Of Americans fighting to build for themselves and their families a nation in which no one is a second class citizen, in which no one is denied their basic rights, in which all of us are free to live and love as we see fit.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
President Obama tells the story of PFLAG
Tonight at the HRC annual dinner, President Obama told the story of PFLAG, and called it "the story of America." Here's the text of the portion of the speech that mentions PFLAG; you can watch that portion online at PFLAG's YouTube channel.