Tag Archives: Honors

Transcript: Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech

The text of Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes after accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, according to a transcript provided by Hollywood Foreign Press Association:

Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. This town, thank you. I love you all, but you’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend, and I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year. So I have to read. Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press, just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said. You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

But who are we? And what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in — no — in Ireland, I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a small-town girl from Virginia. Ryan Gosling, like all the nicest people, is Canadian. And Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, is here for playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

They gave me three seconds to say this. So an actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like, and there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, compassionate work. But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hook in my heart not because it was good. It was — there was nothing good about it, but it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart, and I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence insights violence. When the powerful use definition to bully others, we all lose. Ok. Go on with that thing. OK. This brings me to the press. We need the principal press to hold power to account to call them on the carpet for every outrage.

That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedom in our Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists because we are going to need them going forward and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

One more thing. Once when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something, you know, we were going to work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be very proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight. As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia said to me once, “Take your broken heart. Make it into art.” Thank you, friend.

Stephen Sondheim reimagined for piano by 37 composers

Stephen Sondheim sounded enchanted.

Note by note, pianist Anthony de Mare and three dozen composers had put their own imprints on songs Sondheim wrote over the past half-century, a tribute to the man who redefined Broadway.

“You don’t even have to complete the question,” Sondheim said. “What could be more flattering than to be taken seriously by your peers? And also, some of these are more than peers.”

“Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim From the Piano” was released last month as a three-disc set by ECM. It features 37 original compositions by an All-Star team of composers that includes William Bolcom, Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, Wynton Marsalis, Nico Muhly, Steve Reich, Duncan Sheik and Mark-Anthony Turnage.

Listening to more than three hours of luminous interpolations, there’s much familiar — and much peculiar.

“They all said it was tricky in a lot of ways because the songs are already perfect,” de Mare said one afternoon at his Manhattan home.

It’s difficult to discern who feels more honored — the 85-year-old Sondheim or those commissioned to contribute. On a rainy Friday afternoon after arriving in Connecticut for a weekend in the country, Sondheim said he was.

“I just thought, gee, is my stuff interesting enough to occupy these composers’ minds?” Sondheim said.

He may have felt that in reverse. The contributors wondered whether they were up to the task of rethinking the originals.

Heggie, now 54, dedicated his 2010 opera, “Moby-Dick,” to Sondheim. He recalled seeing “Sweeney Todd” for the first time in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

“The axis of my world shifted. I just remember time stopped and I had to re-evaluate everything,” he said. “It literally blew the top of my head off, and that’s when I sort of went very deep into the Sondheim world and became addicted to his shows.”

Winner of eight Tonys, eight Grammys, an Academy Award and a Pulitzer Prize, Sondheim is known for more than his famous shows. He transforms, teaches and tutors. And these composers have listened.

De Mare came up with the idea of the piano project in 2007, brought on Rachel Colbert to produce and through a lawyer sent a letter to Sondheim. Within two weeks, Sondheim wrote back and suggested a chat.

“One of his tenets is less is more, so his notes were always so much said in the most concise way,” de Mare said.

Milton Babbitt, one of Sondheim’s teachers, agreed to participate and chose “I’m Still Here,” Carlotta’s great elegy from “Follies.” But Babbitt died in 2011 at age 94 just after starting his piece and was replaced by his student, Frederic Rzewski.

Some thought about it, had sleepless nights and backed off. De Mare said Adam Guettel advised he was too nervous. Elvis Costello, Sting and Tori Amos didn’t have the time.

Muhly relished the endeavor, labeling Sondheim “an insane genius.”

“My entire high school life was driving around Providence with my friend listening to everything on repeat,” he said.

For him, “Color and Light” from “Sunday in the Park With George” felt comfy and cozy.

“It’s repetitive, it’s obsessive, it’s pointillistic, it’s got everything a neurotic boy could want!” he said.

In some of the songs, such as Sheik’s soaring “Johanna in Space,” the melodic line is clear, the structure only slightly rearranged. Some were more daring, deconstructing Sondheim’s original.

“Sometimes I have trouble following the composer’s mind as to what he took and what he was developing, and then when I listen to it two or three times, it becomes clear,” Sondheim said. “Some of them are very far removed from the original, from the source material and some of them are not, and so I like to follow the track of the composer’s mind and see what it was that grabbed him and what it suggested to him.”

De Mare, 58, wrote the coda himself. Reich’s “Finishing the Hat — 2 Pianos” is the only one for multiple keyboards — de Mare recorded a track he uses when performing it in solo concerts.

David Rakowski’s “The Ladies Who Lunch” in a chromatic critique of Joanne’s bender in “Company.” Fred Hersch’s “No One is Alone” moves, Paul Moravec’s “I Think About You” obsesses, and Heggie’s “I’m Excited. No You’re Not” romps.

This tribute is a sign of Sondheim’s staying power. But Sondheim himself isn’t so sure.

“I never think about that because there’s no way of knowing,” he said. “Think of it, there’s endless instances of all kinds of art that everybody thought in their day were quote immortal and now nobody ever hears. Who’s heard (Antonio) Salieri? Only people who study music — I mean, he does not get performed much. Who hears (Louis) Spohr? The most popular composer of his day. So, I find it foolish to think about that.”

Wisconsin leaders in conservation to be honored

Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts, will honor conservation leaders from around the state with 2015 Land Conservation Leadership Awards on September 24 at the Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration.

The winners include…

Land Trust of the Year. Green Lake Conservancy has provided lake and watershed protection for the past 20 years, working with landowners to preserve their lakefront properties. To date, 17 properties and more than 700 acres of watershed lands have been protected. These properties offer trails, boardwalks and even a “water trail” to the public.

Additionally, GLC has forged a partnership with other organizations to form the “Green Team” — offering up monthly outings to community members, including field trips, canoe/kayak floats, maple sugar making, winter moonlight walks, bicycle tours and other family-oriented activities.

Conservationist of the Year. Dan Burke, executive director of Door County Land Trust, has been helping DCLT become a highly respected Door County institution for nearly 20 years. Under his leadership, DCLT has preserved more than 7,000 acres of land in the ecologically diverse county and has grown the organization’s membership to more than 2,200.

Burke has also played a key role in building strong working relationships among many organizations to leverage collective skills and recourses, to provide residents accessibility to natural areas for enjoyment and recreation, to preserve pristine lands and to strengthen land conservation in northern Wisconsin.

Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award. Harold Friestad, from the Village of Williams Bay, was essential to winning a decades-long battle to purchase and protect a very special 231-acre parcel on Geneva Lake and turn it into the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. Twenty-five years later, he continues to manage the preserve as its chairman.

Through his leadership, Kishwauketoe remains the largest intact wetland on Geneva Lake, moderating flood flow, improving water quality, recharging ground water, and housing a variety of plants and animals — all while providing recreational, educational, and scientific opportunities.

Policymaker of the Year. Republican State Reps. Amy Loudenbeck of Clinton, Joel Kitchens of Sturgeon Bay and Todd Novak of Dodgeville stepped up as champions for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program during the 2015 state budget process — vocally supporting stewardship within their caucus and actively participating in a working group that negotiated the compromise approved by the Joint Committee on Finance to restore the Stewardship Program to $33 million per year.

Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation. Don Hawkins of Mineral Point spent 32 years as a teacher of agriculture at Mineral Point High School before retiring to become “a shining example of community engagement.” His teaching led to better land management techniques over the years and his leadership in retirement has resulted in 430-acres of exhausted farmland becoming a spectacular place for all to enjoy, while local schools have gained over 20-acres of oak savanna and tall-grass prairie to utilize and to learn from.

For registration information, visit www.gatheringwaters.org/register.

Gathering Waters’ mission is “to help land trusts, landowners and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special.”

Honorary Oscars for Jolie, Martin, Lansbury and Tosi

And the honorary Academy Awards go to… Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury and Italian costume designer Piero Tosi.

The film academy announced earlier this week that Jolie will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, while Martin, Lansbury and Tosi will get Oscars recognizing their career achievements.

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said the Governors Awards “pay tribute to individuals who’ve made indelible contributions in their respective fields.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors voted on the recipients of its fifth annual awards earlier this week. The honorary Oscars will be presented at an untelevised ceremony on Nov. 16 at Hollywood & Highland Center’s Ray Dolby Ballroom.

Martin said on Twitter he’s proud to receive the award, calling it “a salute to comedy and all the great people I’ve worked with.” The 68-year-old entertainer has written and starred in dozens of movies, hosted the Oscar ceremony three times and was nominated for his 1977 short film, “The Absent-Minded Waiter.”

Lansbury, 87, has been nominated for three supporting-actress Oscars during her 65-year career. Her most recent role was in 2011’s “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.”

Tosi’s costume designs have earned him five Oscar nominations, most recently for 1979’s “Las Cage aux Folles” and 1982’s “La Traviata.”

The Hersholt Award is presented periodically to a film industry member for exemplary humanitarian work. Jolie, who was nominated for her leading performance in 2008’s “Changeling” and won for her supporting role in 1999’s “Girl, Interrupted,” serves as a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The 38-year-old actress and filmmaker has also lobbied Congress to support programs protecting women and children.

Previous recipients of the Hersholt Award include Jeffrey Katzenberg, Oprah Winfrey, Sherry Lansing, Jerry Lewis and Elizabeth Taylor.

Hillary Clinton to receive award from Elton John AIDS Foundation

The Elton John AIDS Foundation will honor former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with a new award in October.

Clinton will receive the foundation’s first Founder’s Award. A statement on the foundation webiste said a 2011 speech in which Clinton asserted that gay rights were human rights helped to envision a world without AIDS.

Others to be honored incllude celebrity chef Sandra Lee, business mogul Ronald Perelman and founding board member Howard Rose.

The awards will be presented at an annual benefit on Oct. 15 in New York City with Anderson Cooper hosting.

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Hillary Clinton’s Human Rights Day speech: 

Good evening, and let me express my deep honor and pleasure at being here. I want to thank Director General Tokayev and Ms. Wyden along with other ministers, ambassadors, excellencies, and UN partners. This weekend, we will celebrate Human Rights Day, the anniversary of one of the great accomplishments of the last century. 

Beginning in 1947, delegates from six continents devoted themselves to drafting a declaration that would enshrine the fundamental rights and freedoms of people everywhere. In the aftermath of World War II, many nations pressed for a statement of this kind to help ensure that we would prevent future atrocities and protect the inherent humanity and dignity of all people. And so the delegates went to work. They discussed, they wrote, they revisited, revised, rewrote, for thousands of hours. And they incorporated suggestions and revisions from governments, organizations, and individuals around the world. 

At three o’clock in the morning on December 10th, 1948, after nearly two years of drafting and one last long night of debate, the president of the UN General Assembly called for a vote on the final text. Forty-eight nations voted in favor; eight abstained; none dissented. And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. It proclaims a simple, powerful idea: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. And with the declaration, it was made clear that rights are not conferred by government; they are the birthright of all people. It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are, or even who we are. Because we are human, we therefore have rights. And because we have rights, governments are bound to protect them. 

In the 63 years since the declaration was adopted, many nations have made great progress in making human rights a human reality. Step by step, barriers that once prevented people from enjoying the full measure of liberty, the full experience of dignity, and the full benefits of humanity have fallen away. In many places, racist laws have been repealed, legal and social practices that relegated women to second-class status have been abolished, the ability of religious minorities to practice their faith freely has been secured. 

In most cases, this progress was not easily won. People fought and organized and campaigned in public squares and private spaces to change not only laws, but hearts and minds. And thanks to that work of generations, for millions of individuals whose lives were once narrowed by injustice, they are now able to live more freely and to participate more fully in the political, economic, and social lives of their communities. 

Now, there is still, as you all know, much more to be done to secure that commitment, that reality, and progress for all people. Today, I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today. In many ways, they are an invisible minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed. Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse. They are denied opportunities to work and learn, driven from their homes and countries, and forced to suppress or deny who they are to protect themselves from harm. 

I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time. I speak about this subject knowing that my own country’s record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect. Until 2003, it was still a crime in parts of our country. Many LGBT Americans have endured violence and harassment in their own lives, and for some, including many young people, bullying and exclusion are daily experiences. So we, like all nations, have more work to do to protect human rights at home. 

Now, raising this issue, I know, is sensitive for many people and that the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT people rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural, and religious beliefs. So I come here before you with respect, understanding, and humility. Even though progress on this front is not easy, we cannot delay acting. So in that spirit, I want to talk about the difficult and important issues we must address together to reach a global consensus that recognizes the human rights of LGBT citizens everywhere. 

The first issue goes to the heart of the matter. Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same. Now, of course, 60 years ago, the governments that drafted and passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were not thinking about how it applied to the LGBT community. They also weren’t thinking about how it applied to indigenous people or children or people with disabilities or other marginalized groups. Yet in the past 60 years, we have come to recognize that members of these groups are entitled to the full measure of dignity and rights, because, like all people, they share a common humanity.

This recognition did not occur all at once. It evolved over time. And as it did, we understood that we were honoring rights that people always had, rather than creating new or special rights for them. Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights. 

It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished. It is a violation of human rights when lesbian or transgendered women are subjected to so-called corrective rape, or forcibly subjected to hormone treatments, or when people are murdered after public calls for violence toward gays, or when they are forced to flee their nations and seek asylum in other lands to save their lives. And it is a violation of human rights when life-saving care is withheld from people because they are gay, or equal access to justice is denied to people because they are gay, or public spaces are out of bounds to people because they are gay. No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity.

The second issue is a question of whether homosexuality arises from a particular part of the world. Some seem to believe it is a Western phenomenon, and therefore people outside the West have grounds to reject it. Well, in reality, gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths; they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes; and whether we know it, or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors.

Being gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality. And protecting the human rights of all people, gay or straight, is not something that only Western governments do. South Africa’s constitution, written in the aftermath of Apartheid, protects the equality of all citizens, including gay people. In Colombia and Argentina, the rights of gays are also legally protected. In Nepal, the supreme court has ruled that equal rights apply to LGBT citizens. The Government of Mongolia has committed to pursue new legislation that will tackle anti-gay discrimination.

Now, some worry that protecting the human rights of the LGBT community is a luxury that only wealthy nations can afford. But in fact, in all countries, there are costs to not protecting these rights, in both gay and straight lives lost to disease and violence, and the silencing of voices and views that would strengthen communities, in ideas never pursued by entrepreneurs who happen to be gay. Costs are incurred whenever any group is treated as lesser or the other, whether they are women, racial, or religious minorities, or the LGBT. Former President Mogae of Botswana pointed out recently that for as long as LGBT people are kept in the shadows, there cannot be an effective public health program to tackle HIV and AIDS. Well, that holds true for other challenges as well. 

The third, and perhaps most challenging, issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights. 

In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their killing.

Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings. It was not only those who’ve justified slavery who leaned on religion, it was also those who sought to abolish it. And let us keep in mind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source. For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people. And likewise, for most of us, the bonds of love and family that we forge are also vital sources of meaning and identity. And caring for others is an expression of what it means to be fully human. It is because the human experience is universal that human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.

The fourth issue is what history teaches us about how we make progress towards rights for all. Progress starts with honest discussion. Now, there are some who say and believe that all gay people are pedophiles, that homosexuality is a disease that can be caught or cured, or that gays recruit others to become gay. Well, these notions are simply not true. They are also unlikely to disappear if those who promote or accept them are dismissed out of hand rather than invited to share their fears and concerns. No one has ever abandoned a belief because he was forced to do so.

Universal human rights include freedom of expression and freedom of belief, even if our words or beliefs denigrate the humanity of others. Yet, while we are each free to believe whatever we choose, we cannot do whatever we choose, not in a world where we protect the human rights of all. 

Reaching understanding of these issues takes more than speech. It does take a conversation. In fact, it takes a constellation of conversations in places big and small. And it takes a willingness to see stark differences in belief as a reason to begin the conversation, not to avoid it. 

But progress comes from changes in laws. In many places, including my own country, legal protections have preceded, not followed, broader recognition of rights. Laws have a teaching effect. Laws that discriminate validate other kinds of discrimination. Laws that require equal protections reinforce the moral imperative of equality. And practically speaking, it is often the case that laws must change before fears about change dissipate.

Many in my country thought that President Truman was making a grave error when he ordered the racial desegregation of our military. They argued that it would undermine unit cohesion. And it wasn’t until he went ahead and did it that we saw how it strengthened our social fabric in ways even the supporters of the policy could not foresee. Likewise, some worried in my country that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would have a negative effect on our armed forces. Now, the Marine Corps Commandant, who was one of the strongest voices against the repeal, says that his concerns were unfounded and that the Marines have embraced the change.

Finally, progress comes from being willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. We need to ask ourselves, “How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love? How would it feel to be discriminated against for something about myself that I cannot change?” This challenge applies to all of us as we reflect upon deeply held beliefs, as we work to embrace tolerance and respect for the dignity of all persons, and as we engage humbly with those with whom we disagree in the hope of creating greater understanding.

A fifth and final question is how we do our part to bring the world to embrace human rights for all people including LGBT people. Yes, LGBT people must help lead this effort, as so many of you are. Their knowledge and experiences are invaluable and their courage inspirational. We know the names of brave LGBT activists who have literally given their lives for this cause, and there are many more whose names we will never know. But often those who are denied rights are least empowered to bring about the changes they seek. Acting alone, minorities can never achieve the majorities necessary for political change. 

So when any part of humanity is sidelined, the rest of us cannot sit on the sidelines. Every time a barrier to progress has fallen, it has taken a cooperative effort from those on both sides of the barrier. In the fight for women’s rights, the support of men remains crucial. The fight for racial equality has relied on contributions from people of all races. Combating Islamaphobia or anti-Semitism is a task for people of all faiths. And the same is true with this struggle for equality.

Conversely, when we see denials and abuses of human rights and fail to act, that sends the message to those deniers and abusers that they won’t suffer any consequences for their actions, and so they carry on. But when we do act, we send a powerful moral message. Right here in Geneva, the international community acted this year to strengthen a global consensus around the human rights of LGBT people. At the Human Rights Council in March, 85 countries from all regions supported a statement calling for an end to criminalization and violence against people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

At the following session of the Council in June, South Africa took the lead on a resolution about violence against LGBT people. The delegation from South Africa spoke eloquently about their own experience and struggle for human equality and its indivisibility. When the measure passed, it became the first-ever UN resolution recognizing the human rights of gay people worldwide. In the Organization of American States this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights created a unit on the rights of LGBT people, a step toward what we hope will be the creation of a special rapporteur.

Now, we must go further and work here and in every region of the world to galvanize more support for the human rights of the LGBT community. To the leaders of those countries where people are jailed, beaten, or executed for being gay, I ask you to consider this: Leadership, by definition, means being out in front of your people when it is called for. It means standing up for the dignity of all your citizens and persuading your people to do the same. It also means ensuring that all citizens are treated as equals under your laws, because let me be clear – I am not saying that gay people can’t or don’t commit crimes. They can and they do, just like straight people. And when they do, they should be held accountable, but it should never be a crime to be gay. 

And to people of all nations, I say supporting human rights is your responsibility too. The lives of gay people are shaped not only by laws, but by the treatment they receive every day from their families, from their neighbors. Eleanor Roosevelt, who did so much to advance human rights worldwide, said that these rights begin in the small places close to home – the streets where people live, the schools they attend, the factories, farms, and offices where they work. These places are your domain. The actions you take, the ideals that you advocate, can determine whether human rights flourish where you are.

And finally, to LGBT men and women worldwide, let me say this: Wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are connected to a network of support or feel isolated and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone. People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers you face. That is certainly true for my country. And you have an ally in the United States of America and you have millions of friends among the American people.

The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy. In our embassies, our diplomats are raising concerns about specific cases and laws, and working with a range of partners to strengthen human rights protections for all. In Washington, we have created a task force at the State Department to support and coordinate this work. And in the coming months, we will provide every embassy with a toolkit to help improve their efforts. And we have created a program that offers emergency support to defenders of human rights for LGBT people. 

This morning, back in Washington, President Obama put into place the first U.S. Government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad. Building on efforts already underway at the State Department and across the government, the President has directed all U.S. Government agencies engaged overseas to combat the criminalization of LGBT status and conduct, to enhance efforts to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, to ensure that our foreign assistance promotes the protection of LGBT rights, to enlist international organizations in the fight against discrimination, and to respond swiftly to abuses against LGBT persons.

I am also pleased to announce that we are launching a new Global Equality Fund that will support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world. This fund will help them record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs, and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other human rights groups. We have committed more than $3 million to start this fund, and we have hope that others will join us in supporting it. 

The women and men who advocate for human rights for the LGBT community in hostile places, some of whom are here today with us, are brave and dedicated, and deserve all the help we can give them. We know the road ahead will not be easy. A great deal of work lies before us. But many of us have seen firsthand how quickly change can come. In our lifetimes, attitudes toward gay people in many places have been transformed. Many people, including myself, have experienced a deepening of our own convictions on this topic over the years, as we have devoted more thought to it, engaged in dialogues and debates, and established personal and professional relationships with people who are gay. 

This evolution is evident in many places. To highlight one example, the Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexuality in India two years ago, writing, and I quote, “If there is one tenet that can be said to be an underlying theme of the Indian constitution, it is inclusiveness.” There is little doubt in my mind that support for LGBT human rights will continue to climb. Because for many young people, this is simple: All people deserve to be treated with dignity and have their human rights respected, no matter who they are or whom they love. 

There is a phrase that people in the United States invoke when urging others to support human rights: “Be on the right side of history.” The story of the United States is the story of a nation that has repeatedly grappled with intolerance and inequality. We fought a brutal civil war over slavery. People from coast to coast joined in campaigns to recognize the rights of women, indigenous peoples, racial minorities, children, people with disabilities, immigrants, workers, and on and on. And the march toward equality and justice has continued. Those who advocate for expanding the circle of human rights were and are on the right side of history, and history honors them. Those who tried to constrict human rights were wrong, and history reflects that as well.

I know that the thoughts I’ve shared today involve questions on which opinions are still evolving. As it has happened so many times before, opinion will converge once again with the truth, the immutable truth, that all persons are created free and equal in dignity and rights. We are called once more to make real the words of the Universal Declaration. Let us answer that call. Let us be on the right side of history, for our people, our nations, and future generations, whose lives will be shaped by the work we do today. I come before you with great hope and confidence that no matter how long the road ahead, we will travel it successfully together. Thank you very much.

Milwaukee community celebrates civil rights, Bayard Rustin

The life and work of openly gay civil rights pioneer Bayard Rustin will be celebrated at Reviving the Dream March 22 at the Harley Museum in Milwaukee.

Rustin, who would have turned 101 years old this month, was perhaps best known as the man who taught the principles of non-violent resistance to Martin Luther King Jr. and who organized the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

The event presented by Diverse & Resilient will celebrate Rustin as it honors the work of Denise Crumble, who will receive the first Bayard Rustin Leadership Award in recognition of her “decades of indefatigable work to protect and advance social justice.”

Crumble works for the Milwaukee Health Department and was formerly with the Center for AIDS Intervention Research. Most recently she volunteered to interview dozens of African-American heterosexual people to learn about their beliefs about gay and bisexual men, in hopes of moving Milwaukee to greater levels of respect and acceptance, said a D&R news release.

The event also will feature John D’Emilio, biographer and author of “Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin,” who will talk about Rustin’s leadership and how he brought the theories of civil resistance learned from Mahatma Gandhi to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Eight other annual community awards will be given to youth and adults from Eau Claire to Milwaukee, from Green Bay to Madison.

Each year, Diverse & Resilient solicits award nominations in six or more categories. This year there were more than 40 nominations for excellent service and leadership by LGBT youth and adults, community programs and community allies. 

The event takes place at the Harley Museum with sponsorship from the Cream City Foundation, Eastmore Real Estate, The Brico Fund, Harley-Davidson Foundation, United Way of Greater Milwaukee, AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, Brewers Community Fund, Chris Doerfler and Associates, Fair Wisconsin, Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Reilly Penner and Benton LLP, Wisconsin Gazette and the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee.

Tickets at $100 per person, community and corporate tables and sponsorship opportunities are available at www.diverseandresilient.org/give or by calling 414-390-0444.

Navy to probe anti-gay videos shown aboard ship

The U.S. Navy says it will investigate a series of lewd video clips, filled with anti-gay slurs and sexual innuendo, that were shown to the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise on deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The videos feature Capt. Owen Honors, who is now commander of the carrier, mimicking masturbation, telling homophobic jokes and opening a shower curtain on women pretending to bathe together.

In the videos, Honors jokes that his superior officers were unaware of the content of the videos and “they should absolutely not be held accountable.”

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper reported that Honors appeared in the videos in 2006 and 2007 while he was the Enterprise’s second-ranking officer, and he showed them on closed-circuit television to the nuclear-powered vessels 6,000 crew. Honors took over as the ship’s commander in May.

The Navy issued a statement Jan. 1, saying “production of videos, like the ones produced four to five years ago on USS Enterprise and now being written about in the Virginian-Pilot, were not acceptable then and are still not acceptable in today’s Navy. The Navy does not endorse or condone these kinds of actions.

 

“U.S. Fleet Forces Command has initiated an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the production of these videos,” the statement continued, adding that “it would be inappropriate to comment any further on the specifics of the investigation.”