It Gets Better: President Barack Obama

Jim Burroway

October 21st, 2010

YouTube Preview Image

Whatever complaints and irritations the gay community has right now, this video matters. People do still listen to the President in a way in which they don’t listen to us bloggers and activists. Yes, people will make potshots at the speech. We’re pretty angry over DADT, DOMA and all the other areas of active discrimination that are written into our laws.

And as Alvin McEwen’s facebook friend said, “Heck, we can’t even thank someone without getting into an argument. ”

Well, I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: thank you Mr. President.

Like all of you, I was shocked and saddened by the deaths of several young people who were bullied and taunted for being gay and who ultimately took their own lives. As a parent of two daughters, it breaks my heart. It’s something that just shouldn’t happen in this country.

We’ve got to dispel this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, that it’s some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids.

And to every young person out there, you need to know that if you’re in trouble, there are caring adults who can help.

I don’t know what it’s like to be picked on for being gay. But I do know what it’s like to grow up feeling that sometimes you don’t belong. It’s tough. And for a lot of kids, the sense of being alone or apart, I know can just wear on you. And when you’re teased and bullied, it can seem like somehow you brought it on yourself for being different, for not fitting in with everybody else.

But what I want to say is this: you are not alone. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything to deserve being bullied. And there is a whole world waiting for you, filled with possibilities. There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are.

And so if you ever feel like because of bullying, because of what people are saying, that you’re getting down on yourself, you’ve got to make sure to reach out to people you trust. Whether it’s you parents, teachers, folks that you know care about you just the way you are, you’ve got to reach out to them. Don’t feel like you’re in this by yourself.

The other thing you need to know is things will get better. And more than that, in time you’re going to see that your differences are a source of pride and a source of strength. You’ll look back on the struggles you faced  with compassion and wisdom, and that’s not just going to serve you but, you know, help you get involved to make this country a better place.

It’ll mean that you’ll be more likely to help fight discrimination, not just against LGBT Americans, but discrimination in all its forms. It means you’ll be more likely to understand personally and deeply why its so important that as adults we set an example in our own lives and that we treat everybody with respect. That we are able to see the world in other people’s eyes and stand in their shoes. That we never loose sight of what binds us together.

As a nation, we’re founded on the belief that all of us are equal and each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own version of happiness, to make the most of our talents, to speak our minds, to not fit in. Most of all, to be true to ourselves.

That’s the freedom that enriches all of us. That’s what America is all about.

And every day, it gets better.

Hayden

October 22nd, 2010

He should have said, “It might eventually get better; just not on MY watch”.

The fact of the matter is bullying doesn’t kill nearly as many gay kids as does a sense of an anti-gay community, church, family, friend, school, government, law. Bullying is just the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Unfortunately, Obama, as of now, is part of the problem in America and not part of the solution. Obama talks about being a “fierce advocate” for the community while being the most powerful opponent of civil equality for gays in the country. He talks about his dislike of DADT while vigorously defending it in the courts. Obama is full of pretty words but it’s his ACTIONS and LACK OF ACTIONS on POLICY that ultimately makes gay kids and gay adults feel hopeless, helpless and hated.

Back your “It Gets Better” (which I thank you bunches for) video up with some actions Mr. President. Otherwise STFU!

troymccluresf

October 22nd, 2010

“Potshots”? Pointing out simple hypocrisy is a “potshot”?

It’s good he made this video, but like you say, “people do still listen to the President in a way in which they don’t listen to us bloggers and activists.” And the President has said, in a way with far more ramifications than this nice little video, that LGBTs ARE less worthy.

Priya Lynn

October 22nd, 2010

Hayden said “The fact of the matter is bullying doesn’t kill nearly as many gay kids as does a sense of an anti-gay community, church, family, friend, school, government, law.”.

You’ve obviously never been significantly bullied. Bullying is by far the worst, my life in high school was a living hell, the rejection by family, the anti-LGBT overtones of society are nothing in comparison.

Priya Lynn

October 22nd, 2010

It’d be nice if the video was posted in a format that I could actually see.

Bruce

October 22nd, 2010

Incidentally, as a gay youth myself and thus a member of the target audience, I am less concerned with the thorny legalities (and they are thorny; that much is a given when dealing with the United States government) of the situation and much more concerned with the fact that the president of the United States is willing to say something like this in the public square.

Perhaps tomorrow my cynicism will return, but for now I shall consider myself content. (Plus any and all DADT discharges are now subject to the approval of what are, if I’m not mistaken, Obama’s civilian appointees, which is better than nothing, I suppose.)

cls

October 22nd, 2010

There has never been a shortage of words with Mr. Obama, just action. Words are cheap, easy and in Washington, meaningless.

John in the Bay Area

October 22nd, 2010

I am very critical of Obama. I voted for him in the primaries and general elections, as well as contributing to his campaign. Unless something seriously changes, I do not imagine that I could vote for him again.

That being said, I think this is a great video. Not only has he given his voice to supporting gay kids, he has also called attention to this issue and Dan Savage’s “It gets better” campaign. Incidentally, Dan Savage has also been extremely critical of this president.

This White House has been very defensive and critical of their previous supporters (especially lgbt Americans) while bending over backward to appease the Right. This response is to me one of the first times that Obama has responded to criticism for his administrations anti-gay activities by doing something positive.

Even though this video had nothing to do with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, I had to wonder while watching it, whether this president has decided that he has done enough damage to his relationship with glbt Americans. I do hope that this is the beginning of a change for this president and this White House. We’ll see come the next court filing.

In the meantime, if this helps some kids to survive, or some school districts to begin to protect students, I will be pleased.

Chris McCoy

October 22nd, 2010

Priya Lynn said:

It’d be nice if the video was posted in a format that I could actually see.

Here’s the direct link to the video on youtube. If you can’t see youtube videos, there’s not much people can do for you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geyAFbSDPVk

CPT_Doom

October 22nd, 2010

I am one of those who has been extremely critical of Obama, but this I won’t criticize. As Bruce notes, the youth to whom this campaign is aimed are not going to be as informed or interested in the political machinations of the Obama administration in their interactions with the LGBT community. All that matters is that the most important person in the country is directly contradicting the bullsh*t they get every day, and that is important. In fact, this is the very first time, that I can think of, in Obama’s Presidency that he has directly addressed bigotry against LGBT people in a speech aimed at a wide audience.

Aconite

October 22nd, 2010

Hayden, the messages coming from anti-gay communities, churches, families, friends, schools, governments, and laws are bullying. Bullying isn’t limited to what one kid can do to another. That was part of Dan’s point: that gay kids get bullied at school, then go home to parents who bully them and drag them off to be bullied yet more at church.

Priya Lynn

October 22nd, 2010

Thanks Chris, I also found a viewable version on Truth Wins Out.

Matt

October 22nd, 2010

It’s a very nice, paternal sounding message, like a parent trying to reassure a kid. Now, like others, I want to see what ACTIONS Obama will take to back up his words.

Hayden

October 22nd, 2010

Aconite, that was actually exactly the point I was trying to make. Obama can’t support and promote bullying, with his actions (DADT, DOMA, etc), and speak out against it at the same time. Not with credibility anyway.

Riva

October 22nd, 2010

Pretty words, but he’s really good at that. Actions? Not so much.

Patrick

October 22nd, 2010

You don’t like lgbt individuals being bullied and discriminated against?

Then do something about it.

The Lauderdale

October 22nd, 2010

Thank you, Mr. President.

truthteller

October 23rd, 2010

I stopped listening to this president a long time ago, and I refuse to watch this video because it would be crazy behavior; like living with a violent alcoholic who abuses you then says nice things.

Obama will say anything to keep your support but he has and will continue to stab you in the back. Look at his record.

This is nothing but good PR for the elections. Where is the action?

Priya Lynn

October 23rd, 2010

Yes, Obama is pretty two-faced.

But he’s still a great deal better than a Republican president would have been.

truthteller

October 23rd, 2010

@ Priya
Are you sure?

I no longer settle for the “he’s better than the Republicans,” mantra.

That’s the mentality that has been enabling the president to fight against your rights where it counts–DOMA, DADT, MARRIAGE– and give you pretty words to ooh and aah you.

We have to be willing to make them lose power until they no longer use the LGBT community to make political points.

I am not afraid. We survived Regan and the Bushes, it cannot be worse than that.

Change takes courage!

Priya Lynn

October 23rd, 2010

I’m sure truthteller.

Frijondi

October 23rd, 2010

Ah, a flash of the old Obama, the one who supported gay marriage when he was running for senate. When will he figure out that he can’t appease the far right by waffling on social issues?

@justsearching — when Reagan and Bush the Elder were in office, the wall of separation was a lot more robust, moderate Republicans could still get elected, and the right wing, though nasty, wasn’t openly seditious.

With the possible exception of Romney (not that I’m a fan) every serious Republican presidential hopeful these days would have been considered a lunatic fringe candidate in 1980. I am not willing to let Sam Brownback or any of his ideological brethren anywhere near the Oval Office just to punish Obama for being a jackass half the time.

The religious right poured a lot of money and effort into electing their candidates to minor, local offices before they set their sights on the big time. In the mean time, they settled for Reagan and GHWB until they could run someone like Dubya…or Sister Sarah. I think we should take a leaf out of their book.

SteC

October 23rd, 2010

Everyone keeps telling me “it gets better.” I’m still waiting…

David

October 28th, 2010

@SteC: Me too. I have been waiting for 49 years. What we have gotten from the political and legal system in the last 25 and the message it sends to all Americans:

1) Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – LGBT aren’t good enough to serve their country – we can’t trust you homos to behave in a civilized manner in the showers and trenches with other men

2) Defense of Marriage Act – LGBT aren’t good enough to have legal civil marriage rights and the over 1140 rights and responsibilities that go with marriage – translation: you are a second class citizen and don’t deserve equality with heterosexuals

3) 30 State Bans on Gay Marriage – ditto number 2 above

4) Utah and Arkansas ban on adoption – even domestic partners couldn’t adopt their partner’s child – not good enough to be legal parents

5) No AIDS funding from Reagan until it was epidemic – we hope all of you die

6) Children of divorcing parents not being able to see their father or mother because one accused the other of being gay – you’re a deviant and can’t be around your own child.

These are the messages that America sends to us every day, in every way possible, in the media, from the pulpit, and from government. No wonder kids are killing themselves, either outright or slowly with substance abuse.

Fortunately for me, as I got older, I grew to appreciate myself for surviving all the hate, abuse and violence visited upon me at an earlier age. Now I just live my life sans heteros as much as possible and try to help young people to appreciate themselves as much as I can (community service at the gay community center, giving to SMYAL, giving to Youth Pride, etc.).

Boo

October 31st, 2010

My connection got wobbily, so this may or may not end up being a double post, but…

These comments actually sum up my feelings about Savage’s whole campaign. It’s really a pretty damned hypocritical thing for him to do, given his history of blatent transphobia, but if it saves one life it’s worth it. It would even be nice if it got him to re-examine his own bigotry, but the cynic in me doubts it will.

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