Reflections on NASPA’s Featured Speaker: Dustin Lance Black

 milk“Somewhere in Des Moines or San Antonio there is a young gay person who all of a sudden realizes that he or she is gay; knows that if their parents find out they will be tossed out of the house, their classmates will taunt the child, and the Anita Bryant’s and John Briggs’ are doing their part on TV.  And that child has several options: staying in the closet, and suicide. And then one day that child might open the paper that says “Homosexual elected in San Francisco” and there are two new options: the option is to go to California, or stay in San Antonio and fight. Two days after I was elected I got a phone call and the voice was quite young. It was from Altoona, Pennsylvania. And the person said, “Thanks”.       -Harvey Milk


As keynote speaker at NASPA 13, Dustin Lance Black shared his inspiring personal story about the struggles of coming out.  Black shared how Harvey Milk’s work guided him on his own journey, and eventually inspired him to write the film “Milk.”


Black’s personal story and reflections of Milk moved me because it felt like a shared experience. Some fifteen or so years before Black, I too struggled to deal with my own sexuality. I recall watching with horror the 1978 news stories from San Francisco reporting the murder of Harvey Milk. How could this happen? The first openly gay politician who was my hero and advocate was suddenly gone.


Black’s story of struggle and perseverance is a reminder to us all about being true to ourselves. Milk’s life and work as a pioneer in the gay civil right movement inspired the two of us, and so many others.  His legacy continues to give hope to new generations of LGBT people.


-Brian M. Salvaggio, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs

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