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Sunday, 11 October 2009

"Don’t tell me to wait for my freedom"

During the campaign for the Democratic nomination Obama gave one interview to an LGBT publication in which he said the following:
Anybody who’s been at an LGBT event with me can testify that my message is very explicit -- I don’t think that the gay and lesbian community, the LGBT community, should take its cues from me or some political leader in terms of what they think is right for them. It’s not my place to tell the LGBT community, "Wait your turn." I’m very mindful of Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” where he says to the white clergy, "Don’t tell me to wait for my freedom."
He repeated this point, as President, in his speech tonight to the Human Rights Campaign.

Here's my tweets as I listened to his speech.
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner "I love you Barack" "I love you back"
pauloCanning:#hrc dinner Obama: "It is a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady GaGa"
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner He's referencing Stonewall as 'inspiring'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner simple message "here with you in that fight"
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'it's not for me to tell you to be patient' - as with civil rights - now I'm teary
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'you know - and I know - we don't want to be defined by one part of us that makes us whole'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'Do not doubt the direction we're heading +the destination we will reach'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'we will put a stop to discrimination against gays and lesbians'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'we're pushing for a employee non-discrimination bill. we're ging to put a stop to it.'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'we are rescinding the ban on entering US based on HIV status'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'I will end DADT, that's my commitment to you'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'I've called on Congress to repeal DOMA'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'It's about our common humanity, our ability to walk in someone else's shoes'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner now he's talking about PFLAG 'that's the story of America'
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner 'tonight somewhere in America a young person ... ' THAT'S leadership
pauloCanning: #hrc dinner brilliant rhetoric, worried by the look on his face
The speech was amazing. Historic.

Like the audience, who spent most of their time on their feet, I was really moved to hear a US President say what he said. His last flourish, which stuck progress of LGBT equality firmly into the mainstream of the 'American dream', I couldn't capture quickly enough. It was his classic rhetorical end flourish and he stuck it firmly onto the LGBT cause.

My friend Tobias Grace, who edits New Jersey's LGBT newspaper, said: "Paul: I cried - not so much on my own behalf but thinking of all the young people who will grow up in a world shaped by this man's words and leadership."

But, but ... perhaps that's why I noticed the look. He wasn't smiling. He knew that outside the cheering crowd he faced weren't just pissed LGBT at the lack of actual progress on issue after issue but a mountain of opposition to everything he'd pledged.

Remember, this was the day on which he'd been awarded the Nobel. On what he represents he'd got that acknowledgment and that's a f*cking heavy burden.

I wish I'd captured that exact look as he walked off the stage because it seemed to me one of a man who believed what he'd said, every word, but understood fully what 'change' actually means.

A bitter, bitter fight lies behind "don’t tell me to wait for my freedom". As always, it's accompanied by the background/backroom faint (to some) buzz accompanying it in the LGBT movement between those who would be inside and those who'd be outside, demanding.

Tomorrow's LGBT march on the Capitol is for the demanders and something tells me Obama is with them.

Here's the speech.

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