Earlier today, Dr. Jill Biden delivered a passionate and powerful address at the Opening Ceremony of the 2011 National Convention of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
She began her remarks with an inspiring story:
I recently read an open letter written from a PFLAG father to America’s youth. He wrote, “My wife and I have two sons. We think that they are the best kids in the whole world. They’re very different, with very diverse personalities, talents, and interests. One of the other things that makes them different is that one is straight and one is gay. But the important thing is this: we love them equally.”
At its core – it’s such a simple message – “we love our sons” – both of them. But that acceptance and support can make all the difference.
And as you all know well – acceptance by those you love is the greatest acceptance of all.
As an educator and parent, Dr. Biden knows firsthand the importance of family support in providing a safe school and community, and understands the challenges that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people face:
We all know that self-confidence can be a challenge for youth and adolescents – even under the best of circumstances. These are the years when all kids are trying to figure out who they are and who they hope to be. For children who are struggling with understanding their sexual orientation or gender identity, the teen years can be particularly challenging. And, of course, kids are not always kind to each other during these times, especially when one of them is different.
Along with the President, Vice President, and First Lady, Dr. Biden has been a part of a team that has made safety and security for LGBT people a priority:
I’m proud of the progress the Obama-Biden Administration has made in the last two years for the LGBT community – including the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The White House also held a Conference on Bullying Prevention, and the Department of Education has held summits on this issue as well, and issued guidance to help combat bullying in schools and support Gay Straight Alliances.
This progress is important, but there is still more to do. At this critical time for education in our country, we need to ensure that our schools are producing the next generation of American leaders and heroes. We must insure that our classrooms are safer for all students to learn, grow, and thrive.
In closing her remarks, Dr. Biden asked the parents, families, and friends in the room to continue their good work to change hearts and minds:
I want to say to each of you here today: thank you for raising your voice and working together to open minds, shift attitudes and support all of our sons and daughters, students and neighbors.
Some of you come from places where yours is the only voice of support and acceptance – but when you speak, people listen. And we need you to keep speaking out, to keep shining a light on this important issue.
Gautam Raghavan is an Associate Director of Public Engagement.