The Oakwood Inclusion Coalition would like to thank the organizers of Oakwood's Second Annual Family Pride Picnic for creating and hosting this special community event. The OIC is honored to have participated in both of the Family Pride Picnics so far and hope to be joining you all at this event for many years to come. The Oakwood Inclusion Coalition recognizes every person’s human dignity and aims to foster a welcoming community for everyone in Oakwood, residents, neighbors, and visitors alike. We believe that we can work together to ensure that our town is welcoming to all, to inform ourselves about diversity, inclusion, and equity, and to build a healthy civil society. My message to the adults here is this: congratulations, you’ve changed the world. Of course, June is not only Pride Month, it's also graduation season, so we're hearing a lot these days about changing the world and making it a better place for those who come after us. And as adults we might reflect back on our own graduations and our own efforts since then to improve the world we live in. But how often do we really see evidence that our efforts are bearing fruit? Well, this gathering is that evidence: look at the dramatic increase in acceptance and safety for LGBTQ kids and teens that we have achieved in just one or two generations. You young people might not realize how different things were when your parents were growing up, so here’s an example. I’m 41 years old. I have teenagers in junior high and high school. I went to junior high and high school from 1993 through 1999. Sounds like ancient times, but that’s actually only 25-30 years ago. I went to two different high schools, each with about 600 kids. The whole time I was in school, not one single student ever came out as LGBTQ. Not one. Out of 1200 teenagers. It did not feel safe for a teenager to do so, just 25 years ago. In fact I remember speculating with some friends during my senior year about whether, if a kid did come out as gay, they would be expelled from the school. It felt possible. But look at us now. This picnic could not have happened just one generation ago. And it’s happening now because the adults who are here, and millions more like us across the country, have chosen to transform the world in which our young people experience the emergence and revelation of their identities. We're still working on making the world safe for all young LGBTQ people everywhere, but for our own children and grandchildren, for our own students, our own young neighbors, fellow worshippers and family friends, we did it: we made the world they live in a better place. Well done. My message to the young people here is this: who are you going to make the world a better place for? Your turn to broaden the circle of who is accepted and who is included, is just beginning. You stand at the leading edge of change at what feels like a tipping-point moment in American history: so much progress toward inclusion has been made over the last few generations, but now we're seeing a lot of pushback against that progress. Yet there's reason to hope: Americans who believe in equality and in equal human dignity and in our freedom to live our lives the way that we each choose, vastly, overwhelmingly outnumber Americans who don't. This is great news, because as long as those of us who do believe in equality stick together and work together, we can't be kept down. The danger is that we might allow ourselves to be divided and conquered. When one historically marginalized group sees another as a competitor or a threat, a wedge is driven between those groups that stops us from working together toward our common goal of a civil democratic society with equal opportunity for everyone. Our own prejudice against each other is the only weapon that can defeat us all. Inclusion is about standing together in defiance of attempts to divide us. Inclusion means that everyone matters, even if they're not like you. Our community is only strengthened by diversity of all kinds. The Oakwood Inclusion Coalition wishes you all a joyful Pride Month.
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