Just days after former first lady and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released an “It Gets Better” video , President Obama joined the chorus of voices speaking out to provide strong, positive messages of support to young LGBT people in light of recent gay teen suicides with his own emotional plea to troubled youth.
“Like all of you, I was shocked and saddened by the deaths of several young people who were bullied and taunted for being gay, and who ultimately took their own lives,” the president says in the three-minute clip posted by the White House on Thursday. “As a parent of two daughters, it breaks my heart. It’s something that just shouldn’t happen in this country. We’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage — that it’s some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids. And to every young person out there, you need to know that if you’re in trouble, there are caring adults who can help.”
Last week, during a town hall with MTV News , the president answered a question from a college student who asked if he thought that being gay was a choice. He responded, “I don’t profess to be an expert … I don’t think it’s a choice. I think people are born with a certain makeup, and we’re all children of God,” God. … [W]e don’t make determinations about who we love. That’s why I think discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong.”
In his “It Gets Better” video, the president points out that although he doesn’t know what it’s like to be picked on for being gay, he does understand know how it feels to not belong. “It’s tough. And for a lot of kids, the sense of being alone or apart — I know it can just wear on you,” he says. “And when you’re teased or bullied, it can seem like somehow you brought it on yourself — for being different, or for not fitting in with everybody else.
“But what I want to say is this. You are not alone. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything to deserve being bullied. And there is a whole world waiting for you, filled with possibilities. There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are. And so, if you ever feel like, because of bullying, because of what people are saying, that you’re getting down on yourself, you’ve got to make sure to reach out to people you trust. Whether it’s your parents, teachers, folks that you know care about you just the way you are. You’ve got to reach out to them — don’t feel like you’re in this by yourself.”
The timing of the video in support of gay teens feeling picked on and ostracized came at an awkward time for the White House, as its release landed on the same day that an appeal from the Department of Justice reversed a lower-court ruling ending the military’s 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy , which bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces. Though the president reiterated at the MTV forum that he is focused on ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the appeal was met with scorn from gay activists who questioned Obama’s commitment to abolishing the rule.
“The other thing you need to know is, things will get better,” Obama continues in the clip, which appears to be shot in the White House. “And more than that, with time you’re going to see that your differences are a source of pride and a source of strength. You’ll look back on the struggles you’ve faced with compassion and wisdom. And that’s not just going to serve you, but it will help you get involved and make this country a better place.”
Obama stresses that being bullied, teased or ostracized might mean that you will be more likely to help others fight against discrimination in all its forms, not just intolerance against LGBT Americans. “It means you’ll be more likely to understand personally and deeply why it’s so important that as adults we set an example in our own lives and that we treat everybody with respect,” he explains. “That we are able to see the world through other people’s eyes and stand in their shoes — that we never lose sight of what binds us together.”
The president ends the video by saying, “As a nation, we’re founded on the belief that all of us are equal and each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own version of happiness; to make the most of our talents; to speak our minds; to not fit in; most of all, to be true to ourselves. That’s the freedom that enriches all of us. That’s what America is all about. And every day, it gets better.”
Ke$ha, Nicki Minaj, Adam Lambert and Aubrey O’Day also have posted clips or spoken out against bullying over the past few weeks, and on Wednesday, they were joined by Clinton and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington.