Seeking to repair a shattered image with the LGBT community, and joining the chorus of those shocked by the recent rash of gay teen suicides, President Obama recorded a video as part of the It Gets Better project, to encourage gay and lesbian teenagers that they are not alone and their lives will improve.
In the video, Obama says that he wants to “dispel the myth” that bullying is somehow endemic to American culture and a part of growing up. “We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids.” He tells teens feeling left out or different that they have people who care about them, and they should reach out and not leave these emotions bottled up inside.
He adds that, more than things getting better, that “you’re going to see that your differences are a source of pride and a source of strength.” Obama wants these gay and lesbian teens to know that they will have the diverse life experience to contribute to America in a valuable way, to fight discrimination, to understand the importance of setting a good example. He concludes that everyone 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.”
If anything, the accompanying blog post by Brian Bond of the White House Office of Public Engagement is even better. A gay man, Bond writes about his own struggles as a teen, saying that he “considered suicide as a way out.” But he found a colleague in whom he could confide. “She cared enough to push me to seek help. She saved my life. I will always be grateful for her compassion and support – the same compassion and support that so many kids need today.”
Dan Savage began the It Gets Better project to convince gay teens that they had support out there in the world. He’s now gotten the Secretary of State and the President of the United States to deliver that message.
The entire transcript is below.
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 the 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 or bullied, it can seem like somehow you brought it on yourself – for being different, or 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 your 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, with 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’ve faced with compassion and wisdom. And that’s not just going to serve you, but it will help you get involved and make this country a better place.
It will 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 it’s 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 through other people’s eyes and stand in their shoes – that we never lose 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.