President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton each released video messages this week on the problem of bullying. Both messages centered on abusive behavior toward homosexuals.
BARACK OBAMA: “Like all of you, I was shocked and saddened by the deaths of several young people who were bullied and taunted for being gay, and who ultimately took their own lives. As a parent of two daughters, it breaks my heart. It’s something that just shouldn’t happen in this country. We’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage — that it’s some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.”
One recent victim was an eighteen-year old student at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Tyler Clementi was a first-year student and a promising musician. In late September he jumped to his death from a bridge over the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York. Three days earlier, his roommate had secretly used a webcam to broadcast live images of him in a sexual encounter with another man.
Law enforcement officials have charged the roommate and another student with invasion of privacy.
Last month, writer Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project. The purpose is to help LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — young people. President Obama recorded his message to show support for that project.
BARACK OBAMA: “I don’t know what it’s like to be picked on for being gay. But I do know what it’s like to grow up feeling that sometimes you don’t belong. It’s tough. And for a lot of kids, the sense of being alone or apart — I know can just wear on you. And when you’re teased or bullied, it can seem like somehow you brought it on yourself — for being different, or for not fitting in with everybody else. But what I want to say is this. You are not alone.”
Secretary Clinton released her message earlier in the week.
HILLARY CLINTON: “Like millions of Americans, I was terribly saddened to learn of the recent suicides of several teenagers across our country after being bullied because they were gay or because people thought they were gay. Children are particularly vulnerable to the hurt caused by discrimination and prejudice and we have lost many young people over the years to suicide. These most recent deaths are a reminder that all Americans have to work harder to overcome bigotry and hatred.”
She said opportunities will only increase:
HILLARY CLINTON: “Just think of the progress made by women just during my lifetime by women, or ethnic, racial and religious minorities over the course of our history — and by gays and lesbians, many of whom are now free to live their lives openly and proudly.”
The videos come as the government and the courts try to settle the future of the military policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Under federal law, gays and lesbians can serve, but not openly. No one may ask about a person’s sexual orientation. But service members can be discharged if they are found to be homosexual.
Congress and President Bill Clinton approved the law in nineteen ninety-three as a compromise. Now a federal judge in California has ruled it unconstitutional.
Last week she ordered a halt to all dismissals of gay service members. But on Wednesday an appeals court let the administration temporarily continue the policy.
President Obama says he wants to end the policy, but he wants Congress and not the courts to do it.
In July, the Defense Department e-mailed a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” opinion survey to four hundred thousand service members. Defense Secretary Robert Gates expects the results by December first.