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On the Road in Chicago: Celebrating Every Family

Valerie Jarrett delivers a keynote address at the 2012 Equality Illinois Gala in Chicago.

On Saturday, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, delivered the keynote address to over 1,200 fellow Chicagoans at the 2012 Equality Illinois Gala. In her remarks, Valerie recounted the progress we’ve made during the first three years of the Obama Administration. She reflected on what these changes have meant for people like Dennis and Judy Shepard, Janice Langbehn, and Col. Ginger Wallace.

We should be proud of the laws we’ve passed, the policies we’ve enacted, and the strategies we’ve put in place… The couple that can walk down the street holding hands without being afraid.  The family that can face life’s most difficult moments together.  The service members and their loved ones who are no longer required to deny who they are.  We love this country, and we have changed it.

As she later noted, the progress we’ve made is a part what President Obama has called our “inexorable march towards a more perfect union.”

A more perfect union is not only a national mission. It’s the story of our country, a story that began with those revolutionary words, “All men are created equal.”  The story has been written by men and women who fought for what was right, from Susan B. Anthony to Harvey Milk. The story has repeated itself from Selma to Stonewall. 

In keeping with the theme of the dinner – “Celebrating Every Family” – Valerie also spoke about the President’s recent State of the Union Address and highlighted the importance of an economy built to last, one that includes LGBT Americans and their families.

I know that all of the parents here want their children to receive a world class education. All of the students want to be able to pay back their loans after they graduate. You want a stronger economy that’s built to last.  You want to be able to save a little so you can retire with dignity. And you’re tired of the games and gridlock in Washington, where too many politicians are thinking only of the next election, and not enough of them are thinking of the next generation.

As President Obama has said, “Those are your fights, too.” So when he calls for an America that’s built to last, as he did in his State of the Union Address, he’s fighting for you. He’s fighting for you when he lays out a vision for an economy where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same rules.

And in closing, Valerie spoke with hope for the days ahead and shared a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that President Obama has often repeated, that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

We have not yet reached the day where every LGBT American is treated equally, by law and by those around them. But I believe that for the first time ever, we can see that day on the horizon.

Gautam Raghavan is an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.