As 2016 comes to a close, there is no doubt that this year was difficult for many in the LGBTQ and allied community. After a year of such celebration and momentous progress in 2015, 2016 was a shocking wake-up call to many about the realities that LGBTQ people face. From the rise in anti-LGBTQ legislation to the horrific shooting at Pulse, from the incidents of anti-transgender violence to the election of a presidential ticket that threatened to undermine equality and justice, we know that our job is more important now than ever before.
However, through these difficult times, we witnessed countless moments of inspiration. Throughout the year, time and time again, we saw people stand up and do what was right. Whether they were celebrities, politicians, a friend or just an acquaintance, we saw people stand up for equality and inspire us all. Their stories made us cry, gave us hope and reminded us that love will conquer hate.
Last month, President Barack Obama recognized Ellen DeGeneres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Since coming out publicly on her TV show Ellen in 1997, DeGeneres has been a vocal advocate and figure in the LGBTQ community.
“It’s easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far, where now marriage is equal under the law, just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago. Just how important it was, not just to the LGBT community, but for all of us to see somebody so full of kindness and light, somebody we liked so much, somebody who could be our neighbor, or our colleague, or our sister, challenge our own assumptions. Remind us that we have more in common that we realize. Push our country in the direction of justice. What an incredible burden that was to bear, to risk your career like that. People don’t do that very often. And then to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders,” Obama said during the presentation.
“But it’s like Ellen says, ‘We all want a tortilla chip that can support the weight of guacamole.’ Which really makes no sense to me. But I thought would break the mood because I was getting kind of choked up. And she did pay a price. We don’t remember this. I hadn’t remembered it. She did, for a pretty long stretch of time. Even in Hollywood. And yet, today, every day, in every way, Ellen counters what too often divides us with the countless things that bind us together. Inspires us to be better. One joke, one dance at a time,” Obama said.
We thank Ellen DeGeneres for continually breaking down barriers and living her truth, encouraging and inspiring all of us to live openly and authentically.
Follow along with HRC’s blog in the coming days as we recognize the people who inspired us and gave us hope, courage and strength in 2016.