By Kevin Lair
Senior Elm Writer
On Tuesday, Oct. 14, I had the honor of hearing Mr. David Mixner speak at Washington College. Mixner is a man with a profoundly interesting and empowering history of service and political activism. Speaking personally about his experiences with the civil rights movement on behalf of African-Americans and the LGBT community, Mixner narrated a hard-fought life devoted to the advancement of civil rights and love.
As Mixner spoke of his extensive career and experiences, I could not help but feel a smorgasbord of emotions—agony, pain, triumph, and happiness. Mixner’s life as a gay man in a discriminatory, hateful America left an undeniable impact on him and led to his life-long devotion to political and social activism. Between the loss of countless friends to AIDS and experiences with beatings, discrimination, and animosity, he triumphantly emerged stronger. With unrelenting courage, he is able to fight for his American brothers and sisters of all colors, sexual orientations, and backgrounds.
Whether he was jailed alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fighting for the rights of African-Americans in the Deep South or fundraising to help feed, clothe, and provide medical care for an LGBT community shunned by society, Mixner illustrated the best of humanity.
What struck me the most from Mixner’s discussion was his unyielding courage. For example, one experience Mixner shared with us involved a fundraising dinner designed to raise money for the LGBT community. While at the dinner seeking to acquire funding from well-to-do donors, Mixner was subjected to eat with plastic-ware and utensils, contrasting sharply with the expensive dinnerware that was supplied to the other guests that evening. Despite the uncomfortable environment and immediate urge to walk out, Mixner stayed because he knew that the purpose of the dinner and the positive impact this money would have on the LGBT community was more important than his own personal feelings. This was but one example of Mixner’s selfless mentality and devotion to a purpose greater than himself.
As a dedicated supporter of gay marriage and LGBT rights, female reproductive rights, and civil rights, I thank Mixner for his leadership in these efforts and his life-long devotion to ensuring the protection and expansion of these rights. We all owe him a great deal of thanks for his betterment of this country and world.
In all, I cannot thank Mixner enough for taking the time to share with us his experiences. I was encouraged by the attendance of many students, faculty, and community folk in addition to the heartfelt, personal connections made by Adam Goodheart, director of the CV Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, and junior Shane Benz who helped coordinate this enriching and eye-opening experience.
On the importance of this talk, Benz said, “David Mixner encouraged everyone, regardless of race, religion, income, or sexual orientation, to stand up for what one believes to be right. He inspired everyone to pursue their passions, even in the midst of fear or condemnation. His experience gave many of us the strength to fight for a better tomorrow for all of us.”
I am very proud of the campus support and advocacy for these issues. The WC community has always taken a personal role in promoting awareness for various causes. I hope to do my part to strengthen civil rights in my own political pursuits, surely incorporating these life-long lessons shared by Mixner.