Rea Carey: WE ARE STILL RECRUITING!

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[Update: Click here to view video of this speech!]

Yesterday, Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, presented her “State of the Movement” address here at Creating Change. Jeremy Hooper has the full text of the speech over on Good As You (I was sitting next to him as he posted yesterday!). Below I’ll offer a few highlights and thoughts on her speech.

First, I have to say I really appreciated the strong approach she took with President Obama. Last year when we convened, he had just been inaugurated and our hopes were high, despite Rick Warren’s invocation. This year, Carey didn’t hedge on the fact that he hasn’t pulled through for us.

The Bush-Cheney years were behind us. Change was coming. It was no longer a question of “if” but “when.”

And for those of us who had been fighting for so long — and that’s every one of us in this room and millions of others not with us here today — “when” was sounding pretty good.

But now, it’s a year into this new administration, a year into this new Congress. There have been glimmers of the advocate, but certainly not fierceness.

Speeches aren’t change, change is more than words; change is action.

She went on to echo many of the themes Martin Luther King, Jr. often offered in his speeches.

And when it comes to equality, full equality, you either have it or you don’t.

And we don’t.

As per usual, she highlighted many of our successes from the past year, including achieving marriage equality in many states, successfully fighting attempts to roll back discrimination protections, and successfully attaining new protections in other cities. Maine was a loss, but it does not represent the progress of our movement, and Carey added that we will regain marriage equality everywhere.

We have an opportunity to lead. It’s up to us to define what must happen next, what will happen next.

If we do not step up with an expansive view of what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, if we don’t explain that being LGB or T is simply being human, we will be making a mistake.

I particularly enjoyed it when she took an anti-gay organization to task:

Last year, the right-wing organization Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (and believe me, there isn’t a whole lot of truth there) used a quote from my annual speech here at Creating Change in one of its fundraising letters. Like good activists, we turned around and used its letter in our fundraising efforts. Well, Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, here is your money quote this year: “We are still recruiting! We are recruiting a movement of people who care about freedom, justice and equality. And we will not stop until all people can live their lives without fear of persecution, prosecution or attack because of who they are or who they love. We are still recruiting!

However, despite the fervor of her speech, I was a little concerned that there was absolutely no mention of the National Equality March.

I actually encountered Rea in an elevator later in the day and asked her about it. She joked that the original speech was an hour and a half long and reminded me that The Task Force was incredibly supportive in the NEM and also participated. This I knew and was glad for, and definitely is representative of the way NGLTF sets itself apart from HRC.

Still, of all the things to omit, it seemed like a biggie. Mainstream media reports estimated that 200,000 people participated in the National Equality March and accompanying rally. That’s 100x more people than are here at Creating Change this weekend. It was a phenomenal event that had the same uncompromising message of equality that Carey was presenting in this speech.

To me, it seemed odd, and I can’t quite understand it. I wonder if it came down to the fact that NGLTF was not an official partner/organizer of the NEM. While I appreciate that she trimmed down her speech, I think this stark omission still speaks to the way that many of our advocacy organizations are still quite siloed and feel it necessary to control their own messages and be wary of the connections they draw.

Despite this, Carey’s speech was still a rousing call to action, our yearly refresher on the vitality of our movement and the importance of our continued commitment to it.

I encourage you to read the full speech.

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