Obama's Remarks at 15th Annual HRC National Dinner
BY Advocate.com Editors
October 01 2011 8:50 PM ET
So I’m going to need your help. I need your help to fight for equality, to pass a repeal of DOMA, to pass an inclusive employment non-discrimination bill so that being gay is never again a fireable offense in America. (Applause.) And I don’t have to tell you, there are those who don't want to just stand in our way but want to turn the clock back; who want to return to the days when gay people couldn’t serve their country openly; who reject the progress that we’ve made; who, as we speak, are looking to enshrine discrimination into state laws and constitutions -- efforts that we’ve got to work hard to oppose, because that’s not what America should be about.
We’re not about restricting rights and restricting opportunity. We’re about opening up rights and opening up opportunity -- (applause) -- and treating each other generously and with love and respect. (Applause.)
And together, we also have to keep sending a message to every young person in this country who might feel alone or afraid because they’re gay or transgender -- who may be getting picked on or pushed around because they’re different. We’ve got to make sure they know that there are adults they can talk to; that they are never alone; that there is a whole world waiting for them filled with possibility. That’s why we held a summit at the White House on bullying. That’s why we’re going to continue to focus on this issue. (Applause.) This isn’t just “kids being kids.” It’s wrong. It’s destructive. It’s never acceptable. And I want all those kids to know that the President and the First Lady is standing right by them every inch of the way. (Applause.) I want them to know that we love them and care about them, and they’re not by themselves. That’s what I want them to know. (Applause.)
Now, I also need your help in the broader fight to get this economy back on track. You may have heard, I introduced a bill called the American Jobs Act. (Applause.) It’s been almost three weeks since I sent it up to Congress. That’s three weeks longer than it should have taken to pass this common-sense bill. (Applause.) This is a bill filled with ideas that both parties have supported -- tax breaks for companies that hire veterans; road projects; school renovations; putting construction crews back to work rebuilding America; tax cuts for middle-class families so they can make ends meet and spend a little more at local stores and restaurants that need the business.
Now, you may have heard me say this a few times before -- I’ll say it again: Pass the bill. (Applause.) Enough gridlock. Enough delay. Enough politics. Pass this bill. Put this country back to work. (Applause.) HRC, you know how Congress works. I’m counting on you to have my back. Go out there and get them to pass this bill. (Applause.) Let’s put America back to work.
Now, ultimately, these debates we’re having are about more than just politics; they’re more about -- they’re about more than the polls and the pundits, and who’s up and who’s down. This is a contest of values. That’s what’s at stake here. This is a fundamental debate about who we are as a nation.
I don’t believe -- we don’t believe -- in a small America, where we let our roads crumble, we let our schools fall apart, where we stand by while teachers are laid off and science labs are shut down, and kids are dropping out.
We believe in a big America, an America that invests in the future -- that invests in schools and highways and research and technology -- the things that have helped make our economy the envy of the world.
We don’t believe in a small America, where we meet our fiscal responsibilities by abdicating every other responsibility we have, and where we just divvy up the government as tax breaks for those who need them the least, where we abandon the commitment we’ve made to seniors though Medicare and Social Security, and we say to somebody looking for work, or a student who needs a college loan, or a middle-class family with a child who’s disabled, that “You’re on your own.” That’s not who we are.
We believe in a big America, an America where everybody has got a fair shot, and everyone pays their fair share. An America where we value success and the idea that anyone can make it in this country. But also an America that does -- in which everyone does their part -- including the wealthiest Americans, including the biggest corporations -- to deal with the deficits that threaten our future. (Applause.)
We don’t believe in a small America. We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders -- one of whom could end up being the President of the United States -- being silent when an American soldier is booed. (Applause.) We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. (Applause.) We don’t believe in them being silent since. (Applause.) You want to be Commander-in-Chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient. (Applause.)
We don’t believe in a small America. We believe in a big America -- a tolerant America, a just America, an equal America -- that values the service of every patriot. (Applause.) We believe in an America where we’re all in it together, and we see the good in one another, and we live up to a creed that is as old as our founding: E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. And that includes everybody. That’s what we believe. That’s what we’re going to be fighting for. (Applause.)
I am confident that’s what the American people believe in. (Applause.) I’m confident because of the changes we’ve achieved these past two and a half years -– the progress that some folks said was impossible. (Applause.) And I’m hopeful -- I am hopeful --
Audience Member: Fired up!
President Obama: I’m fired up, too. (Laughter.) I am hopeful -- (applause) -- I am hopeful -- I am still hopeful, because of a deeper shift that we’re seeing; a transformation not only written into our laws, but woven into the fabric of our society.
It’s progress led not by Washington but by ordinary citizens, who are propelled not just by politics but by love and friendship and a sense of mutual regard. (Applause.) It’s playing out in legislatures like New York, and courtrooms and in the ballot box. But it’s also happening around water coolers and at the Thanksgiving table, and on Facebook and Twitter, and at PTA meetings and potluck dinners, and church socials and VFW Halls.
It happens when a father realizes he doesn’t just love his daughter, but also her wife. (Applause.) It happens when a soldier tells his unit that he’s gay, and they tell him they knew it all along and they didn’t care, because he was the toughest guy in the unit. (Applause.) It happens when a video sparks a movement to let every single young person know they’re not alone, and things will get better. It happens when people look past their ultimately minor differences to see themselves in the hopes and struggles of their fellow human beings. That’s where change is happening. (Applause.)
And that’s not just the story of the gay rights movement. That’s the story of America -- (applause) -- the slow, inexorable march towards a more perfect union. (Applause.) You are contributing to that story, and I’m confident we can continue to write another chapter together.
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)
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