Dear President-elect Obama,
I would like for you to imagine the following scenario. In 1978, Harvey Milk, although injured, survives the assassination attempt by Dan White. He then goes on to become a U.S. Senator representing the great state of California. Harvey quickly becomes a popular and effective Senator. A decade later, 1988, and President Ronald Reagan is wrapping up his second term. Vice President George Bush is the Republican nominee for President. For various reasons, many of the leading Democratic candidates (Joe Biden, Gary Hart) are forced to drop out of the race, leaving one candidate standing. A candidate with an amazing ability to reach out to all Americans, and a proven campaign track-record, that candidate is Harvey Milk. And in no short order this country has its first openly-gay Democratic nominee for President. The economy continues south under Reaganomics and the Iran-Contra Affair is lowering Reagan’s approval rate into the mid-thirties. The country is starving for change. During the one and only Presidential Debate, V.P. Bush appears to be out of touch with the economy and likened to an “angry old man.” Senator Milk goes on to become the President-elect. This country is ready for change.
Reagan, deteriorating and basically a lame duck, practically allows Milk to be de-facto President. Milk’s transition team is working closely with the Reagan White House. President-elect Milk wastes no time in selecting his team to get the economy back on track and the US out of the dark. Some of his choices, while unconventional, are fairly sound. The media predicts a historic inaugural turnout. Even though the country is struggling, there is a sense of, well, hope! Milk is known for bringing all sides together and he is reaching out. He wants the entire country represented at this inauguration; People of Color, Women, Children, all groups. There is a frenzy of activity and Washington, DC will be overwhelmed with American Pride. And then…
An announcement is made that former Alabama Governor George Wallace has been invited to give the invocation at the inauguration. Yes, the Governor that “Stood in the Schoolhouse Doors” defying local, state and national law enforcement to deny American-born children their right to equal education is now playing a key role in the transition to the Era of Hope. The African-American community, along with other prominent civil rights groups, feels betrayed. They worked diligently to get this man elected. Many are outraged. The Reverend Jesse Jackson has released a statement that he will decline the invitation to the inauguration in protest. All those that had long been disenfranchised by this country, treated as un-equal, taught to believe that they were less then, all those that had witnessed a miracle of sorts, and given a glimmer of hope, literally feel kicked in the gut. How could this man, this Man of Hope, invite such a controversial and divisive figure to play such a prominent role in this inauguration? Yes, all should be brought together. And yes, George Wallace had his followers. Sure, he should attend the ceremony to see this change in his lifetime. The majority feels that he should not, however, stand up there, hurtful to so many, dismissive to millions, no, he should not stand up there next to this President.
You were not my candidate, sir. But I believed in your hope and vision. I knew that someday you would be my candidate. And then you were. And I went for the ride of hope and inspiration. I applauded your choice of Joe Biden for VP. Brilliant! This choice, however, of Reverend Rick Warren to give the invocation, this is a mistake. And we are all entitled to them. And we will allow you some. The American People are fairly resilient that way. We are also responsible to learn from our mistakes. I hope that this may give you a glimpse of understanding to your choice. I hope that you open your heart to the pain that this has caused. That you think about the 13 year old boy in small town America who is different from others and taunted at school and verbally abused at home. He needs your hope too. He needs to see that he is equal in the eyes of his President. Not that his President will condone and celebrate someone that thinks that he is not worthy of being his true, god-given (if you will) self. We all need your inclusiveness and your wise choices.