By Bob Witeck
The following is the text of remarks by nationally known LGBTQ rights advocate Bob Witeck at Arlington’s 2020 Yorktown High School Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
As a student at Yorktown in the late 1960s, I grew up in a world and at a time when homosexuality was largely invisible, but also criminalized and life-threatening. The closet is not healthy for flowers or other living things — to steal a popular protest from the 1960s.
For the past decades, I felt the need to be honest and open as boldly as possible, and more important, to support and encourage others. In my long career, I consulted with many of America’s Fortune 500 to help design their own business strategies of inclusion, welcomeness and visibility for their LGBTQ workforce and consumers.
We know firsthand that no business or economy thrives unless everyone has equal respect, opportunity and encouragement — including LGBTQ people.
At this very moment, however, as much vital progress as we’ve made — including the marriage I celebrated with my husband in 2014 — today there are some pushing harder to dial back our rights as well as the calendar. They are actively trying to criminalize gender non-conforming people and silence and throttle LGBTQ youths and educators.
They believe we deserve the closet and far worse.
This starkly reminds us that human rights are always fragile and at risk. Yorktown High School, Arlington County, our Commonwealth and our nation, need more than ever to stand up for equality, justice and fairness. If my own work means anything at all, I hope it resonates with each of us who believe in these basic values.
Helen Keller once wrote, “One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” Thank you for inspiring me to soar.