Pride: A time to honor our past and prepare for our futureTop Highlights Thursday, July 19th, 2012
Commentary: Guest Commentary
On a recent Sunday, I was honored to join San Diego Councilmember Todd Gloria to officiate at graduation ceremonies for the first class of the San Diego LGBT Center’s Young Professionals Council Academy. These twenty young people spent half a dozen full Saturdays over three months attending sessions led by LGBT and allied community leaders on topics as diverse as media relations and running for office. In a sense, it was a super-mentoring program and there is no doubt it will help Academy graduates succeed in key roles in our community in the future.
At the graduation, as we addressed a standing-room-only crowd at Wang’s restaurant in North Park, Todd and I both commented on the striking progress of the past few decades. An organized program, with so many LGBT leaders in important community positions sharing their experiences and advice, would just not have been possible when we were entering public life. Instead, we relied on the informal guidance of individuals who were willing to share with us the lessons they learned from being, in many cases, the “first.”
I had the great luck and honor to be mentored by Sen. Christine Kehoe, who is currently serving her last year in the state legislature. This milestone for Christine has made me more than a little nostalgic – although I also have to admit that my impending 50th birthday may also be fueling my reflective mood.
Christine certainly carried the mantle of being “the first” in many ways. She was the first openly LGBT person to be elected to the San Diego City Council. She helped organize, and was the first chair of, the LGBT Legislative Caucus. She led the way to many successes for the LGBT community – domestic partnership benefits for city employees, an equal benefits requirement for state contractors, a revised tax code that treats domestic partners the same as married couples, and more.
Of course, most issues have nothing to do with orientation and Christine has also led on issues such as the environment, energy, transportation, emergency management, banking and finance. She also became a respected advocate of good government and this may be the area in which her mentoring has meant the most to me.
Christine has a keen understanding of the old saying that “all politics is local.” This phrase refers to the fact that no matter where you serve in elected office – city hall, the state capitol, or Washington – everything you do impacts the people who elected you to represent them and should be viewed through that lens.
Two things that Christine taught me are among the lessons I most treasure: She helped me understand (whether as staff or elected) what an honor it is to serve and how important it is to respect communities and constituents. They are the reason we are there! She also taught me that there is no such thing as “a no-brainer” issue – every issue has multiple paths to consider – and it always matters to someone!
Christine’s trailblazing has led the way for so many of us who have followed her. LGBT elected officials have become rather commonplace, including two members of the City Council, the district attorney, two of the four primary election candidates for mayor, and a candidate for the County Board of Supervisors. Christine’s being “at the table” has also helped educate non-LGBT office holders and in many cases moved them to become our allies.
We all have much for which to thank the senator and I, personally, have more than most. Even though we now have entire academies dedicated to guiding and supporting the next generation of leadership, one lesson I hope those new leaders learned is the importance of individual mentorship. As we celebrate LGBT Pride and our champions like Sen. Christine Kehoe, we must also be looking forward and supporting those who will pick up the baton next.
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