March 22, 2012
Ricardo Martinez: Why I Work For GLSEN
When I was little boy my family used to call me Benito in honor of five-time Mexican President Benito Juárez. It wasn’t because I showed potential of brilliant leadership at 6 years old or that I looked like him, it was simply because I was born on his birth date. I never embraced the name mostly because I didn’t understand the importance of this man to my family and partly because I just wanted to be myself.
It wasn’t until adulthood when taking a Modern Mexico class that I found out Benito’s legacy was that of progressive politics and equal rights for all. His most famous quote is:
I would have never guessed that 20 years after I was last called Benito; the above quote would become the motto and inspiration for my work. Since joining GLSEN, the most common question I have been asked has been “why did you decide to work for GLSEN?” My answer has been that I empathize with the mission of ensuring that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
After working here for two weeks and having time to reflect on this question my answer has changed just a bit. I work for GLSEN because I am passionate about respect and because I understand the importance of appreciating young people for being themselves.
As a young kid my family called me Benito because they had high hopes that I would be a leader just like my iconic birth date twin. As I got older I knew I wouldn’t be like him but that I could apply lessons I learned from him to my work. GLSEN provides me with an opportunity to carry out a mission that is based on ensuring respect for the rights of everyone and according to Benito: peace!