Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America.
President Barack Obama released an “It Gets Better” video last night, lending the strongest most high-profile voice of support possible to the grassroots anti-suicide campaign for LGBT youth. Started a month ago by writer Dan Savage and his partner Terry as a response to the tragic string of suicides among gay teens, the It Gets Better Project has already gained more than 10 million views on its YouTube channel.
President Obama has joined a chorus of people, from the famous to everyday, who have lent their voices to the viral campaign. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recorded her own It Gets Better video. Each video has a simple goal: to save a life, to make a LGBT or questioning kid watching somewhere feel a little less along in a world that can be uncommonly cruel.
President Obama’s participation arguably makes the It Gets Better Project one of the most successful viral video campaigns of all time. I mean, you can’t get much better than the leader of the free world. But more than that there is undeniable symbolism in the president’s words. This is the President of the United States telling gay kids everywhere that their lives have worth and they are worthy of happiness. This is progress.
A sitting president is speaking directly to LGBT youth and saying:
You are not alone. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything to deserve being bullied. And there is a whole world waiting for you, filled with possibilities. There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are …. As a nation we’re founded on the belief that all of us are equal and each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own version of happiness. To make the most of our talents. To speak our minds. To not fit in. Most of all, to be true to ourselves.
Can you imagine Sarah Palin or John McCain or George W. Bush looking into a camera and saying that to gay kids? Like I said, progress.
That is not to say we’re done, or anywhere near done. One positive video does not mean the President Obama is totally square with the LGBT community. His administration still has a long way to go on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gay marriage, ENDA and a host of other critical issues. We won’t stop pushing him for the full and total equality we deserve. Nor does this erase the rightful disappointment we feel in some of his administration’s actions. But that doesn’t negate the good of his It Gets Better video, either. Progress isn’t perfect, and it never comes all at once. But each step brings us closer.
Some have criticized the It Gets Better Project, calling it ineffectual or a passing fad. Some have questioned its participants, saying they’re in it for popularity or pandering. But, to be honest, if it stops one kid from picking up that rope or that gun or that pill bottle or that razor blade, I don’t give a damn what someone’s ulterior motives are; I just care that a young gay person who was thinking about not making it to tomorrow is here to see another day.
I commend all of the It Gets Better Project participants, I commend its intentions and I commend its creator. This is what a community coming together looks like. This is how things get better. Thank you, Mr. President.