On the Road in Arlington, Texas: Focus on Safe Schools & Communities

“No on in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love… no one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are.”
            – President Barack Obama, October 28, 2009

Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have taken significant steps to ensure the safety and security of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, including signing the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and hosting the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention

Last week, the White House partnered with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education and The University of Texas at Arlington to host the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools & Communities to continue this important work.  Over 400 students, teachers, parents, community advocates, law enforcement officers, and elected officials joined senior leaders of the Obama Administration for a day-long conversation about safety and security for LGBT people.

The day began with welcoming remarks by James Spaniolo, President of UT Arlington, and Tom Anable, President of Fairness Fort Worth, followed by panel discussions on safe schools and safe communities featuring nationally recognized advocates, local law enforcement officials, and senior leaders from the Departments of Justice and Education.

The morning session concluded with keynote remarks by Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, and Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States.

Valerie Jarrett at the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities

Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, delivers keynote remarks at the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities at The University of Texas at Arlington, Tuesday, March 20th, 2012. (Photo courtesy of The University of Texas at Arlington).

 
In her remarks, Valerie described the many important steps the Obama Administration has taken to ensure safety and security for all our young people – including LGBT students – in our schools and neighborhoods.  She spoke of leaders who inspire this commitment – such as Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, who introduced Valerie and whose moving testimony before the Fort Worth City Council has inspired millions of people across America.

Read Valerie’s remarks as prepared for delivery

Attorney General Holder then spoke, emphasizing the Obama Administration’s commitment to “an essential idea: that no one deserves to be bullied, harassed, or victimized because of who they are, how they worship, or who they love.”  The Attorney General also highlighted some of the important steps the Department of Justice has taken to combat violence and harassment directed at LGBT persons, including the recent settlement in the Anoka-Hennepin school district.

Read the Attorney General’s remarks as prepared for delivery

Eric Holder at the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities

Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, delivers keynote remarks at the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities at The University of Texas at Arlington, Tuesday, March 20th, 2012. (Photo courtesy of The University of Texas at Arlington).

Following a series of afternoon workshop sessions on topics ranging from supporting Gay-Straight Alliances to implementation of the Shepard-Byrd Act, the Conference concluded with moving remarks by Judy Shepard, mother of the late Matthew Shepard and co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

View archived video of the morning session, including keynotes by the Attorney General and Valerie Jarrett, and the closing session featuring Judy Shepard:

 

Check out a short highlights reel of the Conference, prepared by the University of Texas at Arlington:

 

Gautam Raghavan is an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement.

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