June 30, 2009
>GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard’s Comments on White House Reception
>GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard on attending Monday’s LGBT Pride reception at the White House, before which GLSEN student leader Conrad Honicker and his parents got to meet President Obama and the First Lady ptivately:
The reception was clearly a watershed event, even as there remains so much to be done to advance full equality for LGBT people and safer schools for all. But there was something even more remarkable about the day, above and beyond the event itself. Yesterday, GLSEN student organizer Conrad Honicker and his family had an opportunity to meet privately with the President and Mrs. Obama for a few moments before the President entered to make his remarks.
Along with a small group of other organizations’ constituents (a PFLAG mother and her son, a pair of gay dads and their children with the Family Equality Council, and an older lesbian couple who are members of SAGE), Conrad and his parents were taken aside to meet with the President and Mrs. Obama. They had a few moments to tell their stories and ask for the President and First Lady’s help in making schools safer for all students affected by anti-LGBT bias and harassment in school. And, as Conrad told me afterwards, shaking slightly with excitement as he spoke, the President told Conrad that his pointy silver wingtips were, without a doubt, “The coolest shoes that have ever set foot in the White House.”
Shoes and all, Conrad and his parents were tremendous advocates for GLSEN. Over the course of the reception, they and I spoke with other key Administration representatives, including David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to the President, and various members of the Office of Public Engagement. I got to speak with Mrs. Obama immediately after the President’s remarks, to reinforce the ask that Conrad had made, and mention the Safe Schools Improvement Act once again.