Earlier this week, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, joined Attorney General Eric Holder in Arlington, Texas to deliver keynote remarks at the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools & Communities.
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, delivers keynote remarks along with Attorney General Eric Holder at the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities at The University of Texas at Arlington, Tuesday, March 20th, 2012. (Photo courtesy of The University of Texas at Arlington).
In speaking before an audience of over 400 teachers, students, parents, community advocates, law enforcement officers and officials, and elected officials, Valerie described the steps the Obama Administration has taken to ensure safety and security for all our young people – including LGBT students – in our schools and neighborhoods.
As she closed her remarks, Valerie told the story of Tempest Cartwright, a 12th grader from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, who experienced – but was able to overcome – bullying and whose story inspires us to continue to fight for safe schools and communities:
So in closing, I would share one more story from a leader who is here today. Because change doesn’t begin in Washington. Change happens because ordinary people do extraordinary things … people like Tempest Cartwright.
Tempest is from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma – she’s 18 years old. When word first got around her high school that she was gay, she lost friends. Some people stopped talking to her at church. Other students called her hurtful words that no young person should ever hear. For a while, Tempest was depressed. But she refused to let bullies ruin her life. As she put it, “Their attitudes and assumptions need to change, not me. If I don’t help that along, who will?
So today, Tempest is the president of her school’s gay-straight alliance – an alliance that has more than quadrupled its membership since she became involved. It’s not easy. In fact, it is hard. When her organization places posters around the school, they often get torn down. But she and other members keep putting them right back up. And every day, bit by bit, she changes the world around her. As she put it, “When people put me down, it inspires me to stand up.”
Well, young people like Tempest should inspire us all to stand up, and keep standing up, for what is right. To stand up for the safety of our children and neighbors. To stand up for the belief that in America, no one should face bullying, harassment, or violence because of who they are, because that’s not who we are.
Since launching the White House LGBT Conferences, we’ve been in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Dallas/Ft. Worth to discuss issues such as Health, Housing and Homelessness, and Safe Schools and Communities. Stay tuned for announcements about future White House LGBT Conferences on issues including HIV/AIDS, Aging, and Families.
Office of Public Engagement
The White House
In Case You Missed It: White House LGBT Conference on Housing & Homelessness
Earlier this month, hundreds of advocates, community organizers, and interested members of the public came together in Detroit, Michigan for the White House LGBT Conference on Housing & Homelessness to participate in a dialogue with the Obama Administration on these issues. The Conference was hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the Ruth Ellis Center, a Detroit-based center for runaway and homeless LGBT youth.
Secretary for Housing & Urban Development Shaun Donovan delivered keynote remarks at the Conference. In his remarks, Secretary Donovan described the important steps HUD has taken to ensure that all people – including LGBT people – have “a place to call home” and announced that HUD’s new Equal Access rule has gone into effect. Thanks to that rule, no one can be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity when trying to access HUD funded programs or FHA insured mortgages.
Two panel sessions followed Secretary Donovan’s remarks: first, a panel of senior leaders that discussed the work being done across the Administration to address housing for LGBT people, and second, a panel of nationally recognized advocates who work directly with runaway and homeless LGBT youth.
President Obama Announces New Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy
Last week, President Obama announced the appointment of one of the nation’s leading public health policy experts as the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) – Grant Colfax, M.D., the former Director of the HIV Prevention Section in the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Dr. Colfax will coordinate the continuing efforts of the federal government to reduce the number of HIV infections across the United States. A component of the White House Domestic Policy Council, ONAP emphasizes prevention through wide-ranging education initiatives and helps to coordinate the care and treatment of citizens with HIV/AIDS.
“Grant Colfax will lead my Administration’s continued progress in providing care and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS,” said President Obama. “Grant’s expertise will be key as we continue to face serious challenges and take bold steps to meet them. I look forward to his leadership in the months and years to come."