Several members of the GLBT community get Obama-happy.
By Steven Foster
44th President of the United States of America
Books could (and eventually will) be filled with reasons why this man is the man of the moment. But this is a magazine with limited space, so suffice it to say that any publican or pundit would be hardpressed to name another figure in America—or anywhere for that matter—who, in one transformative moment, took this tragically off-course country from being the most despised nation on the planet into being The One Most Likely To…
To what exactly? That’s the real question. The One Most Likely To Save Us? Guide our battered bank accounts through the perfect storm of a financial crisis we charged, mortgaged, and swindled ourselves into? Maybe end one of the two—count ’em, two—wars we are engaged in? Play ER doc to our ailing healthcare system? Teach our schools a lesson? Repair our broken infrastructure? Stop global warming? Fill the political potholes our elected officials keep falling in? Help the GLBT community in our battle for equality? Quite an agenda. Hell, if he scratches one of these action items off this daunting to-do list, we’ll all be better for it.
As he scurries back to Texas, former President Bush can claim all he wants that history will judge his legacy. But the fact of the matter is, history’s pretty much stamped a great big “F” on his presidential report card. A hundred years of hindsight isn’t going to change the facts. But newly elected President Obama is just getting started. And if the three days of his inauguration are any indication, there is good reason to love this man.
On the eve of his inaugural, President-elect Barack Obama talked to wounded troops at a military hospital and then gave a fresh coat of paint to the walls of a shelter for homeless teens. Can you remember what W did on the eve of his inaugural? On inauguration day, Obama showed he knew the oath of office better than Chief Justice of the Supreme Court did. Then came the solid, honest address, the brave, limo-less parade walk, and having to deal with the buzzkill of Kennedy keeling over during lunch. Then the poor man had to endure TEN balls. This man’s got stamina. Good. He’ll need it.
But the real kicker was his first day in office. Up at the crack of dawn, the president attended a multi-faith prayer service, started shutting down Gitmo, lined up the financial rescue package, phoned all the leaders of the Middle East personally, put the kibosh on lobbyists, froze some of Bush’s lame last-minute bad ideas, glared at Biden for not taking the job seriously, fired off a tersely worded congressional memorandum demanding more government transparency, and then promptly capped the salaries of anybody in the government making more than six figures.
In a nod to Obama’s inclusivity, we asked a multicultural panel of Houston movers and shakers to give us their thoughts on our new president.
Rev. Lura Groen
Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, Montrose
The inauguration of President Barack Obama is a sign of God’s promise: that justice is stronger than oppression, and a nation can choose love over prejudice. That’s good news for GLBT people! African Americans not only marched and prayed and sang for this day, but loved their enemies, and laid their lives on the line for freedom. We in the GLBT community can be inspired by their courage as we work toward our own political equality. I am filled with joy to see the GLBT-friendly agenda on the White House webpage! President Obama will need prophets around him to remind him to fight for what he believes is right—equality for GLBT Americans. Watching President Barak Obama take the oath of office filled my heart with joy. I have been singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (quoted by Rev. Lowery in his benediction) since that glorious moment!
Grace Lutheran Church is located at 2515 Waugh Drive. Services are held every Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m.
Council Member, Houston, Texas, District D
This is my first time in Washington, D.C., and right now I am standing at the base of the Washington monument. I’m touching it, and it’s really exciting. This is history, and I’m laying my hands on something that the slaves built. This [election] is something I wish my dad was still here to see. He has passed, but my mom is living this experience through me, calling me every day. It’s exciting to be living this part of history. As an African American, I can say that no one could have seen this happening. I certainly didn’t think I would see this happen in the 40 years of my lifetime. I did have the opportunity to meet Mr. Obama when he was then president-elect. I told him that he was such an inspiration to the community because he worked from the ground up. I am looking so forward to this administration. As Mr. Obama said, this is not white America, this is not black America, this is not Asian America, this is not Hispanic America. This is the United States of America, and that means that all of us will be united. One thing I’ve witnessed about being here in Washington is that everyone is speaking to everybody. There is a real sense of community, and there is a need for everyone to begin working together, in community service, giving of our time, and our resources. It’s been very inspiring.
Adams has been a fierce advocate for Houston’s often neglected and disenfranchised. During her campaign she received a landslide endorsement from the city’s GLBT community.
TV Host, PBS
I worry we have put too many expectations on our new president – and I am not alone. As of late, President Obama’s speeches have included phrases like “It won’t happen overnight” and “It’s going to take time.” We need to realize, just as on inauguration day, when the skies did not open up and the heavenly host did not appear, that we are working with a real man who will face real challenges in a system that does not take kindly to new ideas. As long as we keep our expectations in check, and support our president, change will happen. It will take hard work on all of our parts, and we need to keep our elected officials in check—they were hired by us, they owe us answers to our questions, and they need to work with the president we elected. They work for us, not the other way around.
Ernie Manouse’s new show, Houston 8, tackles one topic every week and analyzes its impact on the local community. It airs every Friday at 8 p.m. on Channel 8.
City Comptroller, Houston, Texas
Obama’s swearing in brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye (literally), as it exemplified the best of America. I have, unfortunately, the same reaction as I contemplate the problems he must tackle. Two wars, a deep recession, rising unemployment, home foreclosures—the problems facing the nation and our new president stagger the imagination. Fortunately, imagination appears to be abundant in this White House. The administration has hit the ground running, signaling a new energy in Washington, a determination to get the country on track and elevate American pride to an unprecedented level. Mr. Obama has made it clear that the economy is a top priority for him. I have high hopes for his plans for turning things around. He’ll be aided in this by the new Democratic-controlled Congress. However, I am pragmatic and realize there is no quick solution. Let’s give him time before we judge. In the meantime, city leaders must work to ensure Houston gets its fair share of any economic stimulus package that includes dollars for infrastructure projects that could spur job growth.
An OutSmart contributor, Annise Parker is one of the highest-ranking GLBT members elected as a municipal official in the United States.
Attorney, Katine & Nechman
In Barack Obama, for the first time , we have a president authentic in his ability to understand and lead us to sensible solutions to poverty, discrimination, intolerance, fear, and injustice. He’s been there, and being multiracial and multicultural has allowed him to see life through more than one set of eyes; his experiences transcend ethnic, sexual, and international borders. He fills us with hope and inspiration because more than anyone we have ever before seen on the world stage, he is us. He understands the America of today, the Americans of today, and where we need to go to make our country a better place for us, and, once again, a beacon of hope for the world.
A long-time advocate for immigration rights within the GLBT and HIV communities, John Nechman is a partner with Mitchell Katine and is the recipient of the 2007 State Bar of Texas’ Judge Norman Black Award.
Professor, The University of Houston
Like everyone else in the country , I’m very relieved Bush is no longer president. And I have already gone to the White House web page and have been very thrilled to see the civil rights agenda, and how wonderful it is. And there is a big chunk of support for the GLBT community. It’s just amazing. I’m so happy to see a president who is supportive of the community and that he has already announced some of the things he’s advocating. It’s been a long time since I voted for a president who won and who I enthusiastically supported. I’m very hopeful.
Maria González, former GLBT Political Caucus president, is a leading authority on Mexican-American literature and is currently the associate professor and director of upper division studies at University of Houston.
President, GLBT Political Caucus
In the GLBT community , there was an enormous sense of achievement on inauguration day, and an enormous sense of relief. But really, the work has yet to begin. Any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender in Texas still can be fired just for who they are, a fact that will likely not change until the U.S. Congress passes an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that includes our entire community. GLBT men and women serving our country in the Armed Forces are not allowed to be open about the ones they love without being discharged from the service because of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Our rights to privacy and to form a family hang perilously in the balance with a U.S. Supreme Court closely divided between a judicial philosophy that recognizes the broad sense of liberty and justice written in the Constitution and one that seems to believe our society has not progressed since the 18th century. Just moments before President Obama took the oath of office, the White House’s website, www.whitehouse.gov changed. Under the “Agenda” section, one could click on “Civil Rights” and see more than two thirds was dedicated to support for the GLBT community. That’s encouraging, and that’s progress. But until that “Agenda” becomes “Achievements,” we cannot rest.
Kris Banks, the caucus’ newest president, is also the founder of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats.
Steven Foster is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.