Unsolicited Advice for Obama’s Gay Speech

The President is delivering the keynote address for the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Washington dinner. The context includes frustration in the gay community for his mixed signals on reforming policies such as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. He and his team have also surprised observers by their lack of demonstrated grace on the issue of gay rights.  My suggestions for getting it right Saturday night:
  1. Assume a high sensitivity to trivializing the issues. Keep it sober, earnest, honest, direct.
  2. We don’t believe you when you say you’re outsourcing this one to the Bible.
  3. Gays in the military is not a hypothetical issue. Gay soldiers are now serving and dying for America. You are their Commander-in-Chief.
  4. This is about identity, not lifestyle or sex. Convince yourself of that before you take the podium.
  5. Serious scholars think your political hero was probably a homosexual.
  6. There are dangers to over-learning the lessons of the Clinton administration (see over-correction on healthcare strategy). The don’t-waste-your-political-capital advice is obsolete.
  7. Not to alarm you, but the crazy thing about us is that we’re everywhere and nowhere. We’re safely in that “other” camp, and then suddenly we’re your colleagues and your spouses and your children. Just ask Dick.
  8. Tell it to us straight, if you will. We’re very good at separating posture from truth. It’s one of the closet’s many gifts.
  9. Courage and caution can’t coexist for long.
  10. Lose the Blackberry holster. A fashion don’t.
  11. Bring Michelle.
  12. Man up.

4 Responses to Unsolicited Advice for Obama’s Gay Speech

  1. Amanda Hite says:

    Fantastic list and advice. Wow.

  2. Hilary Frei says:

    Now that you have heard his speach – do you have any comments to add

  3. Anne Morriss says:

    You know, I thought he did a good job. He certainly gave it his best, most earnest shot, which created a lot of goodwill. His opening joke worked (”It’s a privilege to be here opening for Lady Gaga.”) He addressed the frustration directly. He made a brave choice to link gay rights to the civil rights movement. He dodged the marriage equality question, not very successfully, but he committed strongly to repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He wasn’t entirely comfortable through the whole speech, but the writing was good enough to get him through it. The critics will say all talk, no action, but I think it was an important leadership act. His audience was looking for signs of commitment and empathy, and he basically delivered.

  4. Amanda Hite says:

    @Hilary I thought he did a great job. President Obama is a leader who has inspired me to take action like no other has in my lifetime.

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