On this date back in 1930, not far from where years later I would be born, Harvey Bernard Milk came into this world. His early years were on Long Island, and even after a stint in the Navy, Harvey returned to Long Island to teach. We remember him more for the short time he spent in San Francisco, and for the encouraging words he spoke, and for his tragic death.
I've written here a lot about Harvey - more than any other person. People need to know who this man was and what he did. His famous "Hope speech" is so often quoted, but there was much more encouragement than that. In a taped message that wasn't heard until after his assassination, he urged gay people to come out. "I cannot prevent anyone from getting angry, or mad, or frustrated. I can only hope that they'll turn that anger and frustration and madness into something positive, so that two, three, four, five hundred will step forward, so the gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects ... I hope that every professional gay will say 'enough', come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help."
Today is designated as a "day of special significance" for public schools in California, after the legislature there in 2009, passed a bill, which Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger signed. Special observances will take place today, not only in classrooms, but at events all around that state, particularly in San Francisco. Hopefully folks in other parts of the country will remember Harvey Milk as well. His political career was short and he didn't accomplish many of the things he would have, but he became a symbol - an icon. He gave us hope, and he continues to, 39 years after his death.
Once, in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle, Harvey said "If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I'd be walking backward - and I don't want to walk backward."
Harvey Milk led us forward. I recall those days in San Francisco, and the energy and the enthusiasm still exists. There may be difficult moments and our country may regret some political decisions, but we must continue to move forward and never give up. Recalling a portion of Harvey's most famous speech, "The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us'es, the us'es will give up." Let's remember Harvey, and never give up!