Activism / LGBT

Humanity Plays Starring Role at 2017 HRC National Dinner

By Charles Clymer

Washington D.C. (The Hollywood Times) 11/2/17 – On Saturday, the Human Rights Campaign held its annual National Dinner in Washington, D.C., honoring the historic (and ongoing) march of the LGBTQ movement toward equality for all persons. The atmosphere reflected a resurgence of faith following one of the most unexpected and tumultuous years in American politics.

Hillary Clinton at the 2017 HRC National Dinner

Last year, the event came two months before the presidential election, back when a game-changing Obama White House was coming to a close and all signs pointed to Hillary Clinton continuing the seemingly light-speed pace of policy victories being racked up by LGBTQ activists in the past eight years. Her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, delivered a poignant and powerful keynote address that articulated his personal evolution on understanding—and eventually, championing—LGBTQ rights. Despite the unsettling rhetoric and reception of Trump’s campaign, the future looked bright. And then November came, and after that, attacks on every disenfranchised segment of America, particularly the transgender community.

HRC President Chad Griffin

The past fourteen months have been as full of heartbreak as they have been of inspiration in seeing Americans come together in the fight against hatred. Saturday night seemed like coming full circle and cementing the resolve of the Equality Movement to see this era of crisis through to ultimate victory. Attendees were in the highest of spirits, as though presenting themselves proudly in their own skin on the public square was the biggest middle finger they could ever hope to give Trump.

On the White Carpet—HRC’s gorgeous version of the usual red carpet—various luminaries posed for the cameras and blew kisses at the crowd of hundreds that had gathered to cheer them on. This correspondent asked Uzo Aduba, the brilliant actress who plays the breakout character “Crazy Eyes” in Orange is the New Black, how she was enjoying such a glamorous evening with champions of quality.

Khizr Khan

“I love it!” she beamed. “It’s so exciting to be here!”

Numerous other stars—including DNCE and Jeffrey Tambor—took in the warm reception of the black-tie-clad crowd. Billie Jean King, previously honored with the organization’s 2006 National Equality Award, was called back to the White Carpet three or four times to take pictures with other celebrities justifiably star-struck by the living legend, who is now featured in the much buzzed-about film Battle of the Sexes. Each time, she provoked the loudest cheers of anyone gracing the space.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 28: Billie Jean King speaks at the 21st Annual HRC National Dinner at the Washington Convention Center on October 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Following the White Carpet segment of the evening, attendees retired to the ballroom of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for the formal dinner and dazzling lineup of speeches by various luminaries. One of the most poignant moments of the evening was when Khizr Khan, the Gold Star Father and Muslim-American who had been attacked by Trump during the campaign, gave a rousing speech in support of transgender rights and called upon all Americans to unite against hatred.

But the biggest moment of the night—and one of the most powerful moments of the year in politics for those who witnessed it—was the speech delivered by Hillary Clinton. Just under 23 minutes in length, it seemed to pass much too quickly, as the first woman presidential nominee of a major party was interrupted more than a half dozen times by raucous standing ovations. So loud and persistent was the cheering that I half-expected attendees to flip over tables in celebration. Clinton, who has weathered a year of sexist scrutiny over her performance in an election quite clearly stolen by Trump in collusion with the Russian government, received the kind of hero’s welcome she should have consistently received since November. Undeterred and unbowed by the misogynistic firing squads in political pundits throughout this year, she seemed to relish going after Trump in a fiery address that perked up every seat in the audience.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos at the 2017 HRC National Dinner – Photo: Ward Morrison

The entire evening was a show in solidarity, sure, but more than that, it was a gauntlet being thrown down to the bigots who now populate the corridors of power. It was less a declaration of war and more a notice to vacate. The most successful political movement in modern history would not be had by the small-minded denizens in the White House, a message that will surely reverberate to November of next year and beyond.

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