President Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to sixteen people yesterday, including Stephen Hawking, the late Jack Kemp, Desmond Tutu, Sidney Poitier, Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, and Billie Jean King. He also awarded it posthumously to Harvey Milk.
His name was Harvey Milk. And he was here to recruit us, all of us, to join a movement and change a nation. For much of his early life he had silenced himself. In the prime of his life he was silenced by the act of another. But in the brief time in which he spoke and ran and led, his voice stirred the aspirations of millions of people. He would become, after several attempts, one of the first openly gay Americans elected to public office. And his message of hope, hope unashamed, hope unafraid, could not ever be silenced. It was Harvey who said it best: You gotta give ’em hope.
Imagine that: an activist and organizer for gay rights being honored by the President of the United States in a ceremony at the White House.