Obama appointee in the Department of Education, Kevin Jennings, finally commented about the nasty war of innuendo by the religious right and other conservatives last year and earlier this year which sought to label him as an "anti-religion pedophile who induces children to read porn and have sex with older men:"
Speaking Tuesday to a packed room of progressive interns finishing up a summer in D.C., Kevin Jennings – now serving as the assistant deputy secretary for safe and drug-free schools in the U.S. Department of Education – easily slipped back into an old role, that of educator.
When addressing the interns – some of whom were there from the organization founded by Jennings, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) – the administration official whose role has made him a lightning rod for conservatives did not hold back from speaking forcefully about LGBT and other progressive political issues in his 30-minute address Aug. 3.
. . . During and after his speech, Jennings several times referenced the extensive attacks against him by Fox News – and the work of Media Matters for America to correct those false statements.
Calling them ''some of the most homophobic attacks we've ever seen in this country,'' Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron – whose group organized the event – said, ''Kevin fought back and won.''
After his speech, Jennings expanded on the reason why he didn't back down in the face of the criticism from the right.
''I, as the leading proponent of stopping bullying in America, I was not going to allow myself to be bullied out of a job,'' he said. ''There was no way. It was not going to happen.
''I've been preaching for 25 years that bullying is not okay. There was no way I could then say, 'Okay, well, I'll let you bully me.'''
Referencing President Theodore Roosevelt's ''in the arena'' speech in which the then-president told his audience to ''strive to do the deeds'' even if they wound up failing, Jennings told the interns, ''Do not be that cold or timid soul. Get in the arena.
''You won't win every time. You may find yourself like me with 1.1 million Google hits, most of which are negative – thanks to the Fox News Network – but get in there and fight.''
Now I know some are ready to use Jennings's words as yet another way to be critical of Obama's slow progress on lgbt rights, but allow me to play devil's advocate.
Before pointing the finger at Obama, how many in the lgbt community have taken Jennings's words about fighting to heart? And I certainly don't mean standing in a street and holding a sign that reads "No More Mr. Nice Guy" for two hours with the expectations that such activity will undo the 30 plus years that the religious right have invested in demonizing the lgbt community through phony words, studies, and talking points.
Instead of simply labeling the opposition as "haters," how many of us have invested time and effort in proving our points not just to those who support us - although that is very important - but also to others not familiar with the ins and outs of the struggle for lgbt equality.
Before we point fingers at Obama for not doing everything we want, maybe we need to ask ourselves are we doing everything that needs to be done.
The War on Kevin Jennings - Chronology of a Failed Smear Campaign