Berry Delivers Stirring Pride Speech
BY Kerry Eleveld
June 11 2009 12:00 AM ET
John Berry, the openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management, delivered a deeply moving and personal speech to a mixed crowd of about 200 Department of Justice employees at their annual Pride Awards on Wednesday.
Berry paid tribute to the "patrons of the Stonewall bar" and Frank Kameny, the gay rights icon who fought to eradicate discriminatory practices in the federal workforce, before citing his own experiences as a gay man to simultaneously touch and challenge the hearts of those sitting before him.
The goal of the LGBT movement is simple, he said. "All Americans should be free to work where their skills enable them, free to share equally in every right as well as every responsibility and burden of citizenship, and free to love and pursue happiness no more and no less than our fellow Americans."
Berry, well aware his LGBT peers often feel ostracized and belittled by their fellow citizens, drew strength in recalling the struggles once faced by some of the nation's most hallowed citizens.
"Who can forget the courage of Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, when many of their neighbors and countrymen saw their pursuit of liberty as treason and would have cheered their hanging?" he offered. "Whether it was securing a woman's right to vote or ending 'separate but equal' -- make no mistake -- Susan B. Anthony and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were not unanimously acclaimed and embraced by all their country."
"Today, our country is once again divided -- and pray as I do for a middle ground, finding it is often elusive when liberty is at stake," he declared.