“Thank you so much for this beautiful evening. Congratulations to Carmelyn, Jan, and Marc for your inspiring work. Thank you to everyone at the Center, and to the caterer for choosing a delicious vanilla cream meringue cake as our dessert–really glad you didn’t go with the chocolate cake, after what Donald Trump did while eating ‘the most beautiful cake you’ve ever seen!’ Now to the long list of things Donald Trump has ruined, we have to add chocolate cake!
It is an incredible honor and privilege to present the Center’s Trailblazer Award tonight. It’s one of those rare cases where not only does the recipient need no introduction, but where it’s really, really hard to even give her one. Where do I start? And when a Greek woman is at a loss for words, that’s saying something.
Hillary Clinton isn’t just a global leader. She isn’t just a role model for women of all ages, including my 25-year old daughter who is my date tonight. She’s a bigger than life cultural icon, and introducing her is like introducing a part of American history, like the moon landing or rock and roll. And on top of it, this is a woman who single-handedly brought back pantsuits, which we can all be thankful for.
Her career has been long and storied enough to include fighting for progress, achieving progress and now fighting against the backlash to that progress.
She has gone through many changes over the years — different jobs, different states, different hairstyles, as the press has never failed to point out. But much more important than the changes are the constants: the ideals that have always driven her — a commitment to protect the most vulnerable, especially children and families, and her tireless advocacy for the LGBTQ community, which we celebrate tonight. Because it does matter, and it does change hearts and minds, when a powerful woman in America says, ‘I will fight for you.’
That’s what’s animated her work as an attorney, as First Lady, as Senator, as Secretary of State, and as the most famous grandmother not just in Chappaqua but in the United States of America.
Hillary Clinton has both blazed trails and shattered ceilings. Her firsts are too numerous to mention, but let me just mention the two most recent ones: she was the first woman nominated for president by a major political party. And she was the first woman to win the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, which means that she inspired and led 66 million Americans to vote for a platform based on justice, inclusion, and equality — a platform that included calling on the country to address the crisis of transphobic violence, to pass the Equality Act, to end so-called conversion therapy and to protect the rights of LGBTQ people worldwide.
Six years earlier, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had gone to Geneva to mark International Human Rights Day and said: ‘Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.’ And it’s worth repeating more of what she said on that day: ‘It is a 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. 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.’
Given the election results and the rhetoric coming out of the White House now, these words can no longer be taken for granted. The Center’s very founding in 1983, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, was an act of resistance, a refusal to be invisible, to be treated as anything less than a human being. We hear a lot about outrage these days, but the Center’s history shows how to channel outrage into action.
And I know all of us here tonight are deeply grateful that Hillary Clinton continues to show us the way. Please join me in welcoming to the stage the recipient of The Center’s Trailblazer Award, Hillary Clinton.”
Image courtesy of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.
Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com