Former Lt. Dan Choi spoke to a capacity crowd last night at Ramapo College.
The students were very excited to see him speak, and while he and I sat down for a cup of tea in the college cafeteria, students came up to him and shook his hand and thanked him for his service and his work. After the speech, they queued up for the public Q&A, and then dozens mobbed him afterwards to ask questions. There was a great mix of straight and queer, young and old in the audience.
CBS and ABC television crews were there, as well as a reporter from The Bergen Record, the local paper. They interviewed Lt. Choi after his speech, asking his opinion of the 9th Circuit opinion handed down while he spoke, allowing the military discharges to continue.
And Lt. Choi did not fail to deliver. His speech was timely and stirring, humorous at points, and occasionally deeply sad. As James Conant has said, "Education is what's left over after you forget everything you learned." The students may or may not remember the specific of the issues raised by Lt. Choi years from now, but they learned something about courage and about standing up for being yourself.
Vids after the jump.
The President of the College, Peter Mercer, came to the event. That's not something you see every day. Though I know President Mercer tries to involve himself in the life of the school, Board meetings, donors, alumni, bond issues and legislative issues take up most of his time. So it was quite an honor to see him come to Queer History Month's Keynote Speaker.
Kat McGee, Ramapo's fabulous Assistant Director of Student Development, and Coordinator of the Women's Center, did a fabulous job of making this happen. Kudos to her. (I admit to being a little nervous about the turnout, but as shown here, it was great.)
Here's some of his speech, where he was in a more humorous vein. The students ate it up.
Meanwhile, during the speech, the Obama Administration's appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was granted, permitting discharges under Don't Ask Don't Tell to continue. That means that Lt. Choi's application to re-enlist, which he made yesterday morning at a recruiting station in New York City, will probably be placed on hold indefinitely, or rejected.
He was interviewed by reporters from CBS and ABC on this point, and I hear it was on the 11 o'clock TV news. Here's what he said to the reporter from CBS:
I didn't capture it on the video, but I thought he made a great point when he talked about how the 14,000 units had been affected, who lost essential personnel at a time of war.
The faculty, staff and students of Ramapo College are grateful to Lt. Choi for coming to speak to us.