Our owner/editor wrote the following in the first person in recognition simultaneously of Pride Week and the 22nd annual Cappies Gala at the Kennedy Center (see story, elsewhere this issue):
“I had the distinct honor to be included among the adult presenters of awards at Monday night’s 22nd Annual Cappies Gala before a full house of over 2,500 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
“This time I wound up being the first to present, which presented a challenge for me to get there on time (another story), but having done that and arriving out of breath on the stage, I took a glance at the notes set on the podium before me and saw it allowed for the inclusion of a brief remark prior to announcing the category nominees and the winner.
“Seldom speechless, I almost was in this case. I’d thought earlier of what I might say if I had the chance, but then it was thrust upon me before I’d had time to think it over. I mumbled something about the great event and then exclaimed, “Happy Pride Month, Everybody!”
“So it was definitely a spur of the moment thing. Well, I couldn’t have foreseen how strong the reaction would be, thinking as the words slipped past my lips that perhaps they would trigger a negative reaction given the noisy book-banning controversies that some rightwing parents brought to some Northern Virginia school board meetings in the past year.
“The student reaction, however, is there for everyone to see on the tapes of the event. Simply put, it was the longest and loudest thundering applause that I’ve ever received in my life, especially from such a large crowd. As one whose LGBTQ+ rights pioneering efforts go back over 50 years, it was right for me to step up like this in such an unscripted situation.
“But it was the students that made up the vast majority in the audience who passed judgment on it, and they were decisive and unhesitant. They cheered it like I was one of the original Beatles or something.
“I was quite moved in both the moment and as I stumbled back to my seat after my brief bit was over. I still am.
“I’ve realized the cheers were not for me, nor for the cause, but for their friends, not only just the openly LGBTQ+ ones, but for those in the closet, or questioning, and their friends and allies, and their parents, cheers for the supportive ones and messages for those not so much, and of course for all the haters.
“The theater, you see, is all about the most important thing that makes us human. It is about empathy, about putting persons in the shoes of others and thereby to share in their plight.
“That which we humans experience as the power of empathy is what, in my view, makes up over 90 percent of the known universe, the substance that binds us together in affection and love.”