Friday, October 10, 2008

Michelle Obama, our next First Lady?

Well, my header does say that sometimes I'm going to talk a little about politics. The election is less than one month away so now's a good time.

I'm a Democrat. Always was, always will be. Why? The values of the Democratic party speak to me in ways that the Republicans have never been able to.

I'm a Hillary supporter. Always was, always will be. I think that woman is brilliant and she would have been a fabulous President at this time in our history. But it was not to be so I threw my support behind Barack Obama. The more I learned about him, the better I liked him. He's a smart, intelligent, caring man who I believe wants to be President because he wants to truly improve the lives of everyday Americans. I'm not blind, it is the most powerful position in the world and he's ambitious. Good for him.

However, I was never a Michelle Obama fan. I didn't dislike her, but I never 'took' to her. All that changed on Wednesday evening, when Michelle appeared on an episode of 'Larry King Live'on CNN. As I watched Michelle being interviewed, my eyes started tearing up. I had no idea why until I realized how priviledged we as a country would be if we had the honor of Michelle Obama serving as the First Lady of the United States.

First, a quick Bio:

Michelle Obama was raised in a blue-collar neighborhood in Chicago's South Side. Her father worked for the City and her mother was a secretary. Michelle attended Princeton and Harvard, earning her law degree in 1988. She was an associate in a law firm when she met Barack, in fact, she was his summer advisor. According to, Michelle worked for the Chicago city government as an assistant to the Mayor and assistant Commissioner of Planning and Developement, later becoming the Executive Director of a non-profit encouraging young people to work on social issues in nonprofit groups and government agencies.

In 1996, Michelle served as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago and since 2002, at the University of Chicago Hospitals in various executive roles.

Now the good stuff:

So, why did Michelle Obama affect me so much last Wednesday? Listening to her answer Larry Kings questions with grace and dignity uplifted my heart. Her intelligence shown through, as did her heart. Larry King asked Michelle how she felt about Sarah Palin. Here is Michelle's answer:

"What do you make of her running for a vice president and having many kids and being a good parent and bouncing all the balls?" King asked.

"I think she provides an excellent of example of all the different roles that women can and should play," Michelle Obama responded. "I'm a mother with kids and I've had a career and I've had to juggle. She's doing publicly what so many women are doing on their own privately. What we're fighting for is to make sure that all women have the choices that Sarah Palin and I have."

When the common ploy is to tear down an opponent, did Michelle go for the jugular? Absolutely not. Her graceful answer, in the face of what Palin hs been saying about Obama, was thoughtful and nuanced. I admire that.

When McCain referred to Obama as 'that one', did Michelle take umbrage? She said Americans "right now are scared" and "nervous about the economy."

"They don't care about the back and forth between the candidates. ... They want real answers about how we're going to fix this economy and get the health care benefits on track so, you know, this is part of politics," she added.

Watch the video

I look at the Obama family and I see love. I see a shining example of what a family should be. I see two caring parents who are raising their children as best they can to be proud, upstanding citizens and I see two adorable little girls who are a reflection on their parents values.

To borrow a phrase from Jack Nicholson, Michelle Obama makes me want to be a better person. She makes me want to live up to the example she sets, to appreciate the promise that I see in both her and Barack and I can't think of a better person to occupy the White House as our First lady.

Here's the full interview:

Saturday, October 04, 2008

An Open Letter to Clay Aiken

Clay blogged sometime in the early hours of the morning today. He has laid his soul bare to not only the general public, but to his fans, that huge entity of 'friends' that he's gathered together for the past 5 years. I've written an open letter to Clay and since he said that his blog could 'travel', I'm putting his blog below my letter to him

Dear Clay,

I wake up after a restless night's sleep and after reading your blog, the tears are streaming down my face.

I don't imagine anyone can know what the past five years were like in regards to the intrusiveness of the media into an area of your life that should have been private.

I think as far as the fans are concerned, it's the way we got to know you that makes it seem that we know you, if I'm explaining that right. As with most TV actors, we get to know them through the characters they play and if we're lucky, we learn a little about their real lives, but with you, you didn't have a character, you were Clay Aiken from the get-go. Because of that, I think the fandom, or some of us, felt that we knew you more than we think we did (and I'm not talking about sexuality). We felt we were part of your life all through American Idol, even though we weren't.

To this day, I look at you more as a 'friend' than I do an 'entertainer', right or wrong. I know you're not my friend, but I think I use that word 'friend' to convey that no matter where your career takes you, no matter how high you fly, you're still Clay Aiken, dorky kid from Raleigh with the great voice and a pee-in-your-pants humor that seems more real than fantasy. A lot of celebrities seem so far removed from every day life, but not you, Clay. You are a real person who just happens to be famous. Maybe that's not a good thing, in your eyes, in how it affects how we think of you, but I don't know if that will ever change.

I'm glad you didn't apologize for something that never should have been in the news to begin with. Shades of Bill Clinton and having to answer a question that was actually illegal to be asked of him in the first place. I can't imagine what it must have been like for you to have to tap-dance around intrusive questions while staying true to yourself and your family and still thinking of the fans.

I feel badly for the people who are having trouble assimilating this facet of you. You are correct, none of us are defined by our sexuality, we are defined by who we are and what we do. We are defined by how big our hearts are, how we treat our family and friends, how we interact with others, not by who we sleep with.

May you walk in peace for who you are, Clay, for all parts of who you are. There will be a small portion of the fandom who will leave, who may leave with bad feelings but you can't control that, you can only live your life to be true to who you are. As we all must do.

Hold your head high and know that you are loved.

This is Clay's blog from the early hours of 10/04/2008, with his permission (I've added some white space for easier reading (Clay, you really need to learn the joys of white space *g*):

10/03/08 Killing the elephants in the room.

What a week or so this has been. In fact, it's just been two weeks since I started back to the Spam. Jerome and I were just talking the other day, though, about how the past two weeks have felt like a month. So much routine to get back into and yet so much routine and consistency to break. No doubt, many of you have been going through quite a bit over the past week or so yourselves. What a bunch of headline news we have had in the past 10 days! Wall Street falling to it's knees. Congress propping it back up. Two debates. Hijackers in Somalia. New leaders in South Africa and Japan.

You'd think with all of the important events going on in the world, there would be plenty to fill up the pages of America's newspapers, websites and blogs without the need for information on the private lives of the country's singers and entertainers. But, alas, thats never the case. In fact for the last five years, I've found what seems to have been an inordinate amount of interest (not from the public, but from the media) in my own personal life. The questions never seemed to stop. Oh sure, they die down for a period, but they resurface. The wind blows another direction, and I do yet another interview worried that my personal life will become a topic of discussion.

No doubt the birth of Parker would bring the same scrutiny, just heightened. It's an interesting time we live in. Gone are the days when entertainers could go about their lives without the invasion of privacy that we now see everyday in the form of paparazzi and internet tabloid bloggers. So, in the hopes of being able to sing and act (and dance poorly) and do what I love to do for a living while raising my son in a hopefully more private and accepting environment, I chose to go ahead and confront things head on. Yes, I would have preferred to separate my personal life from my professional life. I would have been just as happy to go on without discussing my orientation. But, it seems like that was not an option.

Make no mistake, its not because I am ashamed. No, not for a minute. I haven't always been as comfortable as I am now, but I am without a doubt, proud of who I am and make no apologies for it. Instead, I would have been happy to have kept my personal life private for that very reason. Because it's personal life and I have always considered myself a private person. But, living as myself without discussing my sexuality publicly would have been as impossible. One chance to expose the truth would have been a payday for any greedy opportunist.

I went to American Idol, much like many of us did "back in the day". Naive. Unlike the contestants who join up today, we had no idea of the power and pull of Idol when we signed on. (I'm sure many of us season two folks like to think we are the reason the show got so big!!! ;-) ) There I was two months off of the biggest show in the country, sitting at a table with a reporter from Rolling Stone who was asking me every single question I would never think of. Twenty-four years old in the rest of America is a LOT younger and more naive than twenty four years old in the media business. So when this guy started asking me about things that I didn't really know how to answer for myself... things that I was not yet ready to admit to folks like my mother and my family.... things that I found intimidating and invasive, I responded in what I assumed was a benign way at the time. I attempted to "out spin" a professional. I wasn't as good as I thought I was. But, I have no regrets.

The truth is, I don't apologize for the responses I gave to that reporter or any reporter over the past five years. I did make every attempt I could after that one interview to never say "I am not gay" or "I am straight". And I never said either. (some interpreted my vague answers to mean that... but I never said either) Some will say thats misleading. In truth, it might be defined that way. But, a better definition and a more accurate way to describe it for me, is a redirection and an attempt to change the topic to something that matters more. For some of you it won't be enough, but I can't apologize for keeping my personal business to myself. If someone feels that they were mislead, I can totally understand that viewpoint and apologize for that feeling, but I can't apologize for how I handled questions that affected me and my right to privacy.

In my opinion, sexual orientation is ALWAYS a private thing. I think the OVERWHELMING majority of people agree with that. Why in the world should someone's sexual orientation be a news item? Why should anyone care? Yet, for all we espouse as a society about tolerance and open mindedness we forget to allow folks the opportunity to be who they are without judgement. Making a decision to come out to family is a difficult and heavy decision. But, for every young man or woman who is struggling with it, it should be a decision that is made on his or her own schedule ONLY. It's never acceptable for anyone to make such a decision for anyone else nor to coerce someone to take such a significant step before they are ready. Not a friend, not a stranger, not the media. So, I waited until the time was right for me. For that I can't apologize either.

There are plenty of you who have anticipated this blog in hopes that I would "set the record straight" or "admit to lying for five years and apologize for it". For that small group of people, I am afraid I will have to disappoint you. My decisions over the past five years have been made with lots of deliberation and at times even heartache. Always with concern for folks who might feel mislead. Don't doubt that. But they have also been made as an attempt, not to hide my true self, but instead to allow myself the same liberties and rights that every single gay man and woman in the world should have... the right to determine for myself when I was ready to discuss my personal life. In as much as that, at times, was interpreted as misrepresentation, I feel badly. But I reserved that right for myself and I can't say I regret it.

I have endeavored over the past several days to allow folks to vent and express themselves as freely as possible without restriction on these message boards. There is no way to change a person's mind when you tell them they are wrong. We all, when backed into a corner, have a human instinct to swing. Having different feelings and opinions and viewpoints are only natural. The only way to deal with that is to accept everyone's right to disagree, and allow them to discuss their feelings. I always have, and I always will.

That said, it hasn't been, nor do I imagine it will be, my intent to make the message boards or the OFC a clearinghouse or discussion zone for sexuality or such topics. I hope we can always continue to discuss the same things we have always found important. The need for inclusion for children with disabilities. The desire to make sure every child in the world has access to their basic needs for survival. And any other topics that will make our neighborhoods, our regions, our country and our world a better more acceptable place (where that relates to issues involving sexuality, I hope we are able to advocate, at those times for the acceptance of others)... and I hope we will all still use the message boards for the lively discussion of the need for better entertainment and music in the world!!!! ;-)

That said, as of this posting, I have asked the moderators to archive the thread regarding the People magazine article and close it from discussion. For those of you who are still struggling, I encourage you to continue to talk to your friends and neighbors and fellow OFC members in the thread devoted to such support. It is not going to be as easy as accepting something over night, but I believe that we are on the right track. The moderators will resume their regular duties of moderating the boards in the fashion that they did prior to last week, and I (and hopefully all of us) will resume our routines in the same fashion as well. Talking about music, talking about potential tours and other performances and appearances, talking about me forgetting my lines of tripping on stage in Spamalot, and discussing with our friends how many times we have seen the show and will see it! (And... looking forward to the announcement of out Playbill contest winner!!!)

Finally, I will say that, also representative of most every other gay man and woman in the world, that I am not defined by my sexuality. No more so than each of you are defined by your sexual orientation. No more than a man or woman is defined by race or ethnicity. It is, simply, a small facet of the same person I have always been. Most of you realize that nothing has changed. I hope to continue being able to entertain you in the same way I have for the past five years. And I hope you will allow me to continue to inform you of the causes that I find important and entertain you with the music and performances I love. For I love and cherish you all. Yesterday, now and forever.