First, I want to say thank you to Chairman Barney Frank (how sweet it is to say that) and to Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin.
Last year Barney celebrated his 20th anniversary as an out official and in a few months Tammy will mark her 10 year anniversary in the House. No two people demonstrate more the power of LGBT leadership... what I call Gay Politics... than Barney and Tammy. As our heroes and role models it is fitting that they have brought us together to honor and celebrate the contributions of LGBT leaders - both to our party and our nation.
I'd also like to recognize our friends and allies at the Human Rights Campaign for their strong support of openly LGBT leaders in politics and government. I value the close working relationship I have with Joe Solmonese, and I'm grateful for the vision of people like Terry Bean, Vic Basile and Hilary Rosen, who among others in 1991--as board and staff members of HRC--recognized the importance of establishing a separate entity to focus on LGBT leaders--charging the Victory Fund with the mission of electing LGBT officials.
And so for 17 years, The Victory Fund has operated with a laser-like focus on one mission - To change the face and voice of America's politics by growing the number of openly LGBT officials at all levels of government. Because
When we are in the room,
At the table of power,
With the same voice and the same vote as our straight colleagues....
The Debate changes.
Hearts and minds change.
And votes change.
There is real power in standing up and showing up to lead, and The Victory Fund is determined to harness that power in our community.
This year we will endorse over 100 candidates, our largest slate ever. Some of these candidates are in this room. These are individuals who dare not only to run for office - but to stand up and do so as openly LGBT men and women. That takes real courage, and we applaud you.
The truth is... all of you have a lot in common with Victory Fund candidates. All of you are standing up for your country and your party. And you are doing that openly, honestly and without fear. That's not only making a difference in your own life, it is making a difference in the lives of LGBT Americans everywhere. Your honesty is an example, and your voice is the voice of thousands more who hope and dream for a truly representative government.
Last night, Caroline Kennedy eloquently told us that her uncle is not just a senator to those in Massachusetts. She passionately suggested that if you benefit from a higher minimum wage, better health care, or improved education, Ted Kennedy is your senator too.
It's the same for those openly LGBT officials who serve in places like the California Assembly, the Utah Senate, the Alabama House, the Chicago Water Board, the Campbell California City Council, or the courts of Philadelphia. Serving their constituents always comes first, but for LGBT Americans benefiting from relationship rights, adoption rights, housing security and employment protections, LGBT officials are working for them too. They are an example that our nation can achieve it's ideal of a true representative democracy, and The Victory Fund will keep supporting these leaders and more like them until America fulfills this promise.
We got here because we convinced politicos, party leaders and even our community that being gay and being a leader are not mutually exclusive. We proved that we win -- when we have the expertise, the training, and the money it takes to build effective campaigns.
We got here because courageous candidates like Elaine Noble and Harvey Milk stepped up and said "I'll go first"
This week, the Democratic Party stands united behind a Presidential candidate who has broken through barriers and demonstrated that diversity and understanding make our democracy stronger. A candidate who will speak truth about struggles of LGBT Americans - not just in front of us but in front of America.
This week we are coming together to play our part in choosing the next leader of our country. But the truth is the important work of choosing our nation's leaders continues long after Election Day. Throughout the course of a presidential administration, important executive decisions are made that affect each of our lives and the President himself does not always make them. Many crucial decisions are made by those he will appoint to the thousands of executive branch offices he controls. That is why our community is organizing to ensure that LGBT Americans are not only heard by the executive, but that they are actually part of the executive branch.
The Presidential Appointments Project is a joint effort of the Victory Fund managed Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute, the Human Rights Campaign, National Stonewall Democrats, the Task Force, Service Members Legal Defense Network, National Black Justice Coalition, Pride at Work, the National Center for Transgender Equality, Federal Globe and others.
Together we are identifying strong LGBT leaders to fill key positions in the next administration. Already, over 700 LGBT leaders have submitted their name as part of the project. As I look around this room, it strikes me that there is great talent, commitment, strength and passion within these walls right now. President Obama will need your help to build an America that works for all Americans, so I'd urge you to consider adding your name to the presidential appointments project and apply online at GLLI.org.
This week is about winning electoral politics at the highest level. It's also about leadership. Our party is telling America that Democrats are prepared to lead this country back to responsibility, hope, strength, compassion and fairness. And what we in this room are saying - to our party leaders and to our country - is that LGBT Americans are ready to help.
We are ready to help and we are able to lead. We are proud to serve our country as it takes a historic step to achieving true equality for all.
None of this would be possible, we would not be where we are today, without pioneers like Elaine Noble and Harvey Milk, without heroes like Tammy Baldwin or Barney Frank, without candidates like Jared Polis, Linda Ketner, or John Perez... or without people like you...People who choose service over silence -- and conscience over convenience.
You are the people who are standing up and saying, "I'll go next; I'm ready to lead."
For that, we, and our nation, are eternally grateful.