What Advice Would You Give Obama?

Posted by Chris Geidner
September 30, 2011 2:35 PM |

On Saturday, Oct. 1, President Obama will be be giving the keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign's 15th annual national dinner. The speech, HRC announced today, will be livestreamed so that everyone who wants to can watch. Many people have been talking about what they expect or want the president to say, but, for a different vantage point, Metro Weekly asked some voices in our community what advice they would give the president.

QUESTION: What advice (in 250 words or less) would you give the president before Saturday's speech?

siperstein.jpgBARBRA SIPERSTEIN is the first out transgender person on the Democatic National Committee executive committee and is a long-time activist in New Jersey:

Being cognizant and appreciative of the fact that President  Obama and his administration have done more for LGBT rights and individual respect than all others who have preceded him combined, I would suggest a bolder and simpler set of words and actions of “change” to engage and excite the fair minded public, that all can understand. So, if it is an executive order, or series of such, for inclusive LGBT non-discrimination in all aspects of the Federal Government, so be it! Hey, if Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas can add Gender Identity/Expression to their employment non discrimination policy, what’s the big deal? Jobs! Jobs! Discrimination costs us all!

I would explicitly congratulate the folks in New York on their Victory and hope to do the same in other states. Frame!

It’s not only LGBT people, there is a huge group of people, people who have been directly affected by the irresponsible actions of the Bush years and Gramm –Rudman, including young people of all denominations, that need to see a glimmer of hope, something for which they can reach.

We cannot go back and undo the lost opportunities of the past, but we can learn that inaction and retreating into a defensive shell makes us appear weak. The Republican alternatives are truly scary, but we have seen they also have unlimited chutzpah and are truly adept at spreading fear and nonsense. Americans like boldness and if backed up by common sense, simple framing and simple reasoning, they will support it!

spaulding.jpgPAM SPAULDING is the creator of Pam's House Blend, the popular LGBT blog that recently moved its home to the liberal FireDogLake blog:

It will be a celebratory evening for you before the audience at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner; it will be a time to revisit the accomplishments to date. The crowning jewel, of course, is presiding over the fall of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It was a rocky road to get to this place, but in the end, the myriad strategies -- from the White House to Congress and the Pentagon, to the grassroots and Netroots -- made this happen. Acknowledging that before the well-heeled LGBT establishment on Saturday will go a long way toward future equality accomplishments.

Also, think hard about the message you choose to send as the cultural storms over marriage and equal rights under the law are brewing in the state your party chose to host the Democratic National Convention - North Carolina. It is a state without any employment protections for LGBT workers at a time when jobs are a priority; it is a state that faces a vote on the civil rights of a minority based on political and religion-based bigotry. Corporations in the state, as well as politicians wary of being vocal will be guided by your choice -- to speak out publicly, on camera -- or to remain silent as millions of dollars pour in from anti-gay forces to ensure that lesbian and gay couples face even more restricted civil rights.

There will be buzz in the air on Saturday about whether you've "evolved" on your position regarding marriage equality since you are in Washington, DC, where it now exists. However, be mindful that you are being feted by a small demographic slice of the LGBT pie, by a group of people whose equality priorities may differ greatly from those who don't have the same level access, resources or political power. Speak not only to those LGBTs present in the room, but to the many out there still seeking the most basic civil rights and protections in more hostile parts of the country.

stowell.pngCALVIN STOWELL is a young activist who made a splash with his "It Gets Better" video on YouTube and has spoken out for LGBT equality at HRC events across the country alongside his straight brother, a fromer Marine who testified before the legislature in New Hampshire in favor of marriage equality:

President Obama needs to continue speaking to his base, he cannot keep attempting to be the great appeaser. This country is fed up with GOP leadership, his policies for the economy have the overwhelming support of the public. President Obama needs to stay on message.

In all, this is the number one thing Democrats could learn from the Republican party.

Simplify your talking points and continue to reiterate them.

wooledge.jpgSCOTT WOOLEDGE is an activist who blogs at Daily Kos and was one of those arrested at the White House, protesting Obama and calling for more action on ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":

Two words: “Be bold.”

And, of late, the administration has made a bolder use of the bully pulpit. The defense of soldier Stephen Hill’s service against GOP booing has been exhilarating. Biden condemned it as “reprehensible.”

The more fiery, and partisan rhetoric has also been evidenced in the fight for the proposed jobs bill. We’re seeing more messaging that puts the Republican party nonsense squarely in focus, and that’s a good thing. It’s wise to be diplomatic when the occasion calls for it, but don’t shirk from calling nonsense where there is nonsense.

And these days there’s plenty of nonsense to call out.

You are a tremendously inspiring and popular man, Barack Obama, and the Presidential bully pulpit is a very powerful tool. Use it, but recognize for some, all your words will always fall on deaf ears, because you will never do anything right by them. It’s just folly to pursue their approval.

There is a very real fight going on in the marketplace of ideas, and your supporters really need you to be fully engaged. They need a powerful and bold advocate. People want this from you.

And at times, rank and file Democrats have wondered, “Has the administration forgotten who brought them to the dance?”

The Department of Justice dropping the defense of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and filing the Golinski brief, was a very bold, and much appreciated, move.

There are remaining tasks the administration can still perform to alleviate suffering in the LGBT community on issues like discrimination, school bullying, binational immigration, youth homelessness and HIV, both domestically and abroad. Reach out to our advocates, they can point you to bold solutions for change.

Take them. You will be rewarded.

Obama is expected to speak after 7 p.m. Saturday.


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