President Obama Delivers Remarks at the HRC’s Annual National Dinner


The President:
Thank you. Hello, HRC! (applause) Thank you so much. (applause) Thank you. Thank you very much. (applause) Thank you. (applause) Thank you so much. (applause) Thank you everybody; thank you. Please, please; have a seat. Thank you. Thank you so much. It is great to be back. (applause) I see a lot of
friends in the house. I appreciate the chance
to join you tonight. I also took a trip out
to California last week, where I held some productive
bilateral talks with your leader, Lady Gaga. (laughter) She was wearing 16-inch heels. (laughter) She was eight feet tall. (laughter) It was a little intimidating. Now, I don’t want to
give a long speech. Cyndi Lauper is in the house. I can’t compete with that. (applause) But I wanted to come here
tonight, first of all, to personally thank Joe for his
outstanding years of leadership at HRC. (applause) What he has accomplished at the
helm of this organization has been remarkable, and I want to
thank all of you for the support that you’ve shown this
organization and for your commitment to a simple idea:
Every single American — gay, straight, lesbian,
bisexual, transgender — every single American deserves
to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in
the eyes of our society. It’s a pretty
simple proposition. (applause) Now, I don’t have to tell you
that we have a ways to go in that struggle. I don’t have to tell you how
many are still denied their basic rights — Americans who
are still made to feel like second-class citizens, who
have to live a lie to keep their jobs, or who are afraid
to walk the street, or down the hall at school. Many of you have devoted your
lives to the cause of equality. So you know what we have to do;
we’ve got more work ahead of us. But we can also be proud of the
progress we’ve made these past two and a half years. Think about it. (applause) Two years ago, I stood at
this podium, in this room, before many of you,
and I made a pledge. I said I would never
counsel patience; that it wasn’t right to tell you
to be patient any more than it was right for others to tell
African Americans to be patient in the fight for equal
rights a half century ago. (applause) But what I also said, that
while it might take time — more time than
anyone would like — we are going to make progress;
we are going to succeed; we are going to build
a more perfect union. And so, let’s see what happened. I met with Judy Shepard. I promised her we would pass a
hate crimes bill named for her son, Matthew. And with the help of my
dear friend Ted Kennedy we got it done. Because it should
never be dangerous — (applause) — you should never have to
look over your shoulder — to be gay in the United
States of America. That’s why we got it done. (applause) I met with Janice Langbehn, who
was barred from the bedside of the woman she loved
as she lay dying. And I told her that we
were going to put a stop to this discrimination. And you know what? We got it done. I issued an order so that any
hospital in America that accepts Medicare or Medicaid — and that
means just about every hospital — has to treat gay
partners just as they do straight partners. Because nobody should have to
produce a legal contract to hold the hand of the
person that they love. We got that done. (applause) I said that we would lift
that HIV travel ban — we got that done. (applause) We put in place the first
comprehensive national strategy to fight HIV/AIDS. (applause) Many questioned whether
we’d succeed in repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And, yes, it took two years to
get the repeal through Congress. (applause) We had to hold a
coalition together. We had to keep up the pressure. We took some flak along the way. (applause) But with the help of
HRC, we got it done. And “don’t ask, don’t
tell” is history. (applause) And all over the world, there
are men and women serving this country just as
they always have — with honor and courage
and discipline and valor. We got it done. (applause) We got that done. (applause) All around the world, you’ve
got gays and lesbians who are serving, and the only difference
is now they can put up a family photo. (laughter) No one has to live a lie to
serve the country they love. I vowed to keep up the fight
against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. There’s a bill to repeal this
discriminatory law in Congress, and I want to see that passed. But until we reach that day,
my administration is no longer defending DOMA in the courts. I believe the law runs
counter to the Constitution, and it’s time for it to
end once and for all. It should join “don’t ask, don’t
tell” in the history books. (applause) So, yes, we have
more work to do. And after so many years
— even decades — of inaction you’ve got every
right to push against the slow pace of change. But make no mistake — I want
people to feel encouraged here — we are making change. We’re making real
and lasting change. We can be proud of the
progress we’ve already made. And I’m going to continue
to fight alongside you. And I don’t just mean in
your role, by the way, as advocates for equality. You’re also moms and dads who
care about the schools your children go to. (applause) You’re also students figuring
out how to pay for college. You’re also folks who are
worried about the economy and whether or not your partner or
husband or wife will be able to find a job. And you’re Americans who want
this country to succeed and prosper, and who are tired of
the gridlock and the vicious partisanship, and are sick
of the Washington games. Those are your fights, too, HRC. (applause) So I’m going to need your help. I need your help to
fight for equality, to pass a repeal of DOMA, to
pass an inclusive employment non-discrimination bill so that
being gay is never again a fireable offense in America. (applause) And I don’t have to tell you,
there are those who don’t want to just stand in our way but
want to turn the clock back; who want to return to the days
when gay people couldn’t serve their country openly; who reject
the progress that we’ve made; who, as we speak, are looking
to enshrine discrimination into state laws and constitutions —
efforts that we’ve got to work hard to oppose, because that’s
not what America should be about. We’re not about
restricting rights and restricting opportunity. We’re about opening up rights
and opening up opportunity — (applause) — and treating each other
generously and with love and respect. (applause) And together, we also have to
keep sending a message to every young person in this country
who might feel alone or afraid because they’re gay
or transgender — who may be getting picked
on or pushed around because they’re different. We’ve got to make sure they know
that there are adults they can talk to; that they
are never alone; that there is a whole world
waiting for them filled with possibility. That’s why we held a summit at
the White House on bullying. That’s why we’re going to
continue to focus on this issue. (applause) This isn’t just
“kids being kids.” It’s wrong. It’s destructive. It’s never acceptable. And I want all those kids to
know that the President and the First Lady is standing right
by them every inch of the way. (applause) I want them to know that we
love them and care about them, and they’re not by themselves. That’s what I want them to know. (applause) Now, I also need your help in
the broader fight to get this economy back on track. You may have heard, I
introduced a bill called the American Jobs Act. (applause) It’s been almost three weeks
since I sent it up to Congress. That’s three weeks longer than
it should have taken to pass this common-sense bill. (applause) This is a bill filled with ideas
that both parties have supported — tax breaks for companies that
hire veterans; road projects; school renovations; putting
construction crews back to work rebuilding America; tax cuts for
middle-class families so they can make ends meet and spend a
little more at local stores and restaurants that
need the business. Now, you may have heard me say
this a few times before — I’ll say it again:
Pass the bill. (applause) Enough gridlock. Enough delay. Enough politics. Pass this bill. Put this country back to work. (applause) HRC, you know how
Congress works. I’m counting on you
to have my back. Go out there and get
them to pass this bill. (applause) Let’s put America back to work. (applause) Now, ultimately, these debates
we’re having are about more than just politics;
they’re more about — they’re about more than
the polls and the pundits, and who’s up and who’s down. This is a contest of values. That’s what’s at stake here. This is a fundamental debate
about who we are as a nation. I don’t believe — we don’t
believe — in a small America, where we let our roads crumble,
we let our schools fall apart, where we stand by while teachers
are laid off and science labs are shut down, and
kids are dropping out. We believe in a big America,
an America that invests in the future — that invests in
schools and highways and research and technology — the
things that have helped make our economy the envy of the world. We don’t believe
in a small America, where we meet our fiscal
responsibilities by abdicating every other
responsibility we have, and where we just divvy up the
government as tax breaks for those who need them the least,
where we abandon the commitment we’ve made to seniors though
Medicare and Social Security, and we say to somebody
looking for work, or a student who
needs a college loan, or a middle-class family
with a child who’s disabled, that “You’re on your own.” That’s not who we are. We believe in a big America, an
America where everybody has got a fair shot, and everyone
pays their fair share. An America where we value
success and the idea that anyone can make it in this country. But also an America that does
— in which everyone does their part — including the
wealthiest Americans, including the biggest
corporations — to deal with the deficits
that threaten our future. (applause) We don’t believe
in a small America. We don’t believe in the kind of
smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of
political leaders — one of whom could end up being
the President of the United States — being silent when
an American soldier is booed. (applause) We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing
silent when that happens. (applause) We don’t believe in
them being silent since. (applause) You want to be
Commander-in-Chief? You can start by standing up for
the men and women who wear the uniform of the United
States, even when it’s not politically convenient. (applause) We don’t believe
in a small America. We believe in a big America
— a tolerant America, a just America, an
equal America — that values the service
of every patriot. (applause) We believe in an America where
we’re all in it together, and we see the good
in one another, and we live up to a creed that
is as old as our founding: E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. And that includes everybody. That’s what we believe. That’s what we’re going
to be fighting for. I am confident that’s what the
American people believe in. I’m confident because of the
changes we’ve achieved these past two and a half years — the
progress that some folks said was impossible. (applause) And I’m hopeful
— I am hopeful — Audience Member:
Fired up! The President:
I’m fired up, too. (laughter) I am hopeful — (applause) — I am hopeful —
I am still hopeful, because of a deeper
shift that we’re seeing; a transformation not only
written into our laws, but woven into the
fabric of our society. It’s progress led not by
Washington but by ordinary citizens, who are propelled not
just by politics but by love and friendship and a sense
of mutual regard. (applause) It’s playing out in
legislatures like New York, and courtrooms and
in the ballot box. But it’s also happening around
water coolers and at the Thanksgiving table, and
on Facebook and Twitter, and at PTA meetings
and potluck dinners, and church socials
and VFW Halls. It happens when a father
realizes he doesn’t just love his daughter, but also her wife. (applause) It happens when a soldier
tells his unit that he’s gay, and they tell him they knew it
all along and they didn’t care, because he was the
toughest guy in the unit. (applause) It happens when a video sparks
a movement to let every single young person know
they’re not alone, and things will get better. It happens when people look
past their ultimately minor differences to see themselves in
the hopes and struggles of their fellow human beings. That’s where change
is happening. (applause) And that’s not just the story
of the gay rights movement. That’s the story of America — (applause) — the slow, inexorable march
towards a more perfect union. (applause) You are contributing
to that story, and I’m confident we can
continue to write another chapter together. Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you.

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