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Letters to President-elect Obama: Jorge Valencia

Letters to President-elect Obama: Jorge Valencia

Jorge_valencia

Open letters from 26 gay men and lesbians.

Dear President-elect Obama:

Congratulations on your election as president of the United States of America. A huge burden now rests on your shoulders to ensure the change you promised and by which you ran your campaign. Many of us are counting on this much needed change, including our LGBT young people, who are all too often disregarded by families, friends, communities, and religious institutions.

Like you, I have chosen a life path that aims to benefit the citizens of this great country. For the past 10 years I have dedicated my time, skills, and energy toward the betterment of our future -- our youths. Prior to my work with youths, I had the distinct honor of holding a political post with the Clinton administration from 1992 to 1996. Working on behalf of our country in Washington, D.C., was extremely fulfilling. That is, until I began working for nonprofit organizations whose purpose is that of caring for our youths in need -- especially our LGBT young people.

It's sad that, still, today:* 75% of high school students nationwide report being bullied due to their sexual orientation.* 38% report having been physically harassed due to their sexual orientation or gender expression.* Nearly one third of LGBT students drop out of high school to escape the violence, harassment, and isolation they face there.* That this shocking dropout rate is nearly three times the national average.* That as a result of these sad statistics, these students are twice as likely to report that they are not planning to pursue a higher education.

Lambda Legal conservatively estimates that there are between 2.25 and 2.7 million LGBT school-age students in American schools. That being the case, if one third of those students choose not to pursue higher education, that means between three quarters of a million and nearly 1 million of them will make this choice, stunting their educations and their futures. And that is a shame -- a tragic and a needless shame that robs this nation of the untold contributions that these individuals could have made.

As a nation, we've experienced an historic year in positive ways, and in other ways, less so:* Hillary Clinton--the first woman to viably compete for the presidential nomination of a major political party.* You--the first African-American to win the presidential nomination of a major political party and the presidency.* The first woman was selected as the vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party.* The right to marry in California was won -- in May the California supreme court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, and in doing so extended protection of the right to marry to same-sex couples.

But...on the less than positive front:* The economy suffered dramatically, and in many ways key measures of its decline were the worst since the Great Depression.* Home prices plummeted.* Unemployment climbed to the worst level in years.* The price of oil reached unimaginable heights.* And sadly, financial support of education suffered a significant decline.

College education costs have risen by over 60% since the 2000-01 academic year. The cost of a college education is rising faster than inflation and family income, and while there have been improvements to the Higher Education Act, key federal tuition assistance such as the Pell Grant program have failed to keep pace with the rising cost of college.

The need for more scholarships is expected to only grow. After having the largest number of applications for a Point Scholarship in our organization's history this year, we are bracing ourselves for an overwhelming amount of applicants next year. Earlier this year 3,746 individuals began the application process for a scholarship through the Point Foundation, the nation's largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBT scholars of merit. Of those, 1,344 individuals submitted their completed applications, and from these applications, 27 new Point Scholars were selected.

You have committed to making college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit -- a universal and fully refundable credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and you have committed to support outreach programs to encourage more young people to consider and prepare for college, helping to send a greater number of youths to college.

At Point Foundation we will continue to create a future of diverse and talented leaders, but we would all benefit greatly from your promise to lighten the burden of attaining a higher education. As president, we hold you to your promises and implore you to keep our young people safe in school and enthused about attaining a higher education--the only means by which we can truly invest in our future.

Sincerely,

Jorge ValenciaExecutive director and CEOPoint Foundation

More Letters to the President-elect:Tammy Baldwin, Democratic member of Congress from Wisconsin

Daniel Tammet, author of Born on a Blue Day

Evan Wolfson, Executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry

Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign

Melissa Etheridge, singer-songwriter

Michelangelo Signorile, radio host and author of Queer in America

Tammy Bruce, radio talk-show host and author of The New American Revolution

Kenji Yoshino, professor at New York University School of Law and the author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

Vestal McIntyre, author of You Are Not the One and the forthcoming Lake Overturn

Jarrett Lucas, codirector of the 2008 Soulface Q Equality Ride

Michael Lowenthal, author of Charity Girl and Avoidance

Suzanne Westenhoefer, comedian and star of the documentary A Bottom on Top

Jim Buzinski, CEO and cofounder of Outsports.com

Perez Hilton, blogger, radio host, and television personality

Carole Midgen, former California state senator

Pam Spaulding, Durham, N.C.-based blogger

Paris Barclay, Executive Producer/Director HBO's In Treatment

Lorri L. Jean, CEO, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center

Jeffrey Prang, Mayor of West Hollywood

Jorge Valencia, Executive director and CEO of Point Foundation

Mark Leno, California assemblyman

The Reverend Doctor Troy D. Perry, founder and moderator emeritus, Metropolitan Community Churches\

Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality

Donna Rose, transgender activist

Peter Tatchell, LGBT human rights campaigner and spokesman for OutRage!

Rachel B. Tiven, Executive Director, Immigration Equality

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