Rick Rosendall accepts Distinguished Service Award

Rick Rosendall Accepts Award from Jeff Coudriet

Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
28th Anniversary Reception
Charles Sumner School
Thursday, April 22, 1999

Thank you, Jeff. You were a tough act to follow, so receiving this from you is especially gratifying. I have to start by thanking the GLAA stalwarts who helped me get through the last three years, in particular Craig Howell and Barrett Brick and Frank Kameny and Cartwright Moore.

Today is Earth Day, and here we are on 17th Street, one of the most welcoming places on earth for gay men and lesbians. This is an oasis we have created in a hostile world, and we must appreciate what we have as we work to improve and increase it.

A key part of that work is focus choosing our battles and sticking with them. For example, we finally passed a Civilian Complaint Review Board law, and now we have to implement it. But that is only the beginning. Reforming the police culture to move it away from the paramilitary model of policing toward a community-based one will not be easy; but if the armed force in our midst is truly to serve the entire community, there must be trust. Trust requires respect. Respect requires understanding. Understanding requires imagination.

An example of the failure of imagination is the protest rally against the police that I was invited to speak at on April 3. I declined, because I don't trust demagoguery, I don't see why Washington police should be blamed for an atrocity in New York, and I don't like being used by opportunists. The path to reform is a difficult one, and there are no shortcuts. You have to do your homework, and you have to persevere. You have to act in good faith, which means you give credit where it is due as well as criticism. Reflexive adversarialism may be emotionally satisfying, but when you write people off you diminish your capacity to influence, and our job is to do precisely the opposite.

The best summation of America's challenge was made by Dr. King when he called on our nation to rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. Instead of seeing only what is wrong with our country and adopting a facile, self-marginalizing revolutionary posture, we accomplish more by appealing to our nation's founding principles and showing that those who preach intolerance and unquestioning orthodoxy are the ones who are anti-family and un-American. There are some in our community who just want to complain, but we are in the more serious business of making real the promise of democracy. Politics is the art of the possible, and we attract votes and allies on issue after issue by active, informed engagement and cooperation, and a reputation for integrity. We have done well by putting principle ahead of party, and by showing that we know how to organize.

If we look around at the difference GLAA has made, we can see that our individual contributions have added up to significant improvements, not just for gay people, but for the general welfare of our city. It has been my privilege to carry on the tradition of Mel Boozer and Mayo Lee and Cade Ware and Jim Zais, and those who are still with us, like Lorri Jean and Mindy Daniels and Jeff Coudriet and Craig Howell. They all set a very high standard. Respect from my colleagues is a very high tribute indeed, and I will cherish this. Thank you.

Copyright 1999 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.