With the sound of “Ain’t no mountain high enough” playing in the background Human Rights campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin introduced US Senator and Vice-Presidential Nominee Tim Kaine as the “embodiment of what it means to be a public servant.”
“There are moments for celebrations but there are no moments for rest,” said Senator Tim Kaine – a co-sponsor of the Equality Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act – at the 20th Annual Dinner, of HRC at the Convention Center in Washington, D.C. on September 10, 2016, with about four thousand attendees and support from a large number of Fortune 500 corporations.
Kaine acknowledged the progress HRC made since it started in 1980 with one desk, a phone that didn’t always work and nine (9) dollars in the bank. He congratulated HRC for its success and declared that “Every American deserves respect and dignity, no matter who they are or who they love.”
Invoking the memories of the Founding Fathers, Kaine talked about the ideals of equality as the “North Star that guided.” Discussing the historical progress in United States in all spheres, Kaine touched on the right of women to vote and asked “how many strong women are in the audience? And how many strong men are in the audience to support a strong woman to be the President of the United States?”
In his keynote address, Kaine a devout Catholic with three children and whose wife former Virginia Education Secretary was also in the audience, reminded the audience that as Virginia’s Governor his first executive order was to protect workers against discrimination in his state. “My three children helped me see the issue of marriage equality, “said Kaine. “Equal is equal, just as love is love,” Kaine continued. “Who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human famiy!?.. Your work is keeping the candle of hope alive,” Kaine went on.
Quoting famous writer Alice Walker, Kaine said: “No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.”
“Are we orienting towards that north star of equality?” Kaine asked. “Eric Fanning is now the Secretary of the Army …where he could not have served just five years ago,” said Kaine. Sharing his exposure to the struggles of the LGBTQ community, Kaine mentioned his years at the University of Missouri.
Christine Leinonen whose son Christopher was murdered at the Pulse night club along with his boyfriend and 47 other people brought the gathering to tears and cheers saying: “Christopher lost his voice much too young but I did not lose mine and neither did you.” She urged people to “stop the hate and be a force of good in the world.”
In his remarks earlier in the program, Griffin talked about the victims in Orlando night club shooting: “above all they were human beings who were loved and had hopes and dreams for long and fulfilled lives.”
“Stay in the struggle, but never become bitter or hostile…Teach others that hate is too heavy a burden to bear,” urged the legendary Civil Rights Leader Representative John Lewis. Reminding the audience of the challenges overcome, Lewis said: “There are forces in America today who want to take us back. But we’ve come too far.”
Lewis shared his background growing up in Alabama on a chicken farm and fired up the gathering with some simple and memorable lines:
“We are one people, we are one family; we are the human family.“
“We are so much alike in every way that matters; our similarities far outnumber our differences”
Speaking of the tragedy in Orlando, “it was hate that pulled the trigger and 49 beautiful young men and women died; it was a crime against all humanity.”
“Ours is not a struggle against flesh against blood but against falsehood and lies.”
And perhaps the best of all: “we need to run not walk to the polls… our lives depend upon it!!”
For this Kaine had already prepared the ground: “We’ve got 59 days until the election—and we aren’t taking anything for granted.”
Photos are courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign.