BY JAMES HORMEL
The following is the keynote address by former U.S. Ambassador James Hormel at the Gay Games VII Opening Ceremony, Soldier Field, July 15, 2006.
For being such gracious hosts, our hearty thanks to Mayor Daley and the wonderful people of Chicago. Welcome to everyone, and especially those who have traveled from more than 60 countries representing the world. We've come a long way from the first Games in San Francisco, when Tom Waddell brought his vision to life.
Tom's vision of Gay Games was of a means for education and a vehicle for change. Tom Waddell was a miracle worker. He wanted to bring people together. He sought to dispel the myths about homosexuality and athletic ability. He spoke of identity and self-esteem, and he designed the Gay Games to encourage us to be accepting of ourselves, as well as of others. He dedicated the final years of his life to creating his miracle.
The essence of the Gay Games is inclusion, participation and attainment of personal best. Having been involved in these games from the very beginning, I have experienced firsthand what these values mean. In November 2002, at the Gay Games VI in Sydney, I participated in tennis and won a Gold Medal. The experience for me was delicious. Imagine me, the non-athlete, the last-chosen, winning a medal! I'm still boasting about it. But the magic was on opening night, when the teams of India and Pakistan marched in together; at a track meet, when spectators stayed and stood to cheer on the last straggling person to finish a race; and at the pairs skating and ballroom dancing, where men performed with men and women with women. What a beautiful example we set!
There are regions of the world today where people are experiencing widespread discrimination, and to be an open and proud member of the LGBT community can be life threatening. Political and social unrest surrounds us: Witness the recent events happening in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Around the planet people are blowing each other up and gunning each other down in the spirit of ignorance and fear and hatred and prejudice. But tonight, on the eve of Gay Games VII, we come together as a symbol for peace and acceptance. All of you who are here tonight are taking part in demonstrating the magic of community. You are the realization of Tom Waddell's life work. Congratulations for your courage and compassion.
What we do with our lives, after the Games have ended, will make a difference around the world. We must share what we experience here about our own humanity and worth and the true value of relationship. We must bring to our families, our friends and our communities the binding spirit of the Gay Games. We must show those who would be our adversaries that we have many more similarities than differences. We must act every day as emissaries of liberation, participation, inclusion, acceptance and love—and expect the same in return.
My mother immigrated to the United States from France. Feeling isolated in a small Midwestern town, she made a needlepoint cushion that read, 'I'll show the cockeyed world.' Now it's our turn.
Let us participate, engage and celebrate each other in our moments of glory as we begin Gay Games VII!