Obama Joins the 'It Gets Better' Project

A step in the right direction, say advocates, but only a step

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The It Gets Better Project, an outreach campaign directed at young LGBT people who are the victims of harassment and bullying, includes video contributions from public figures as diverse as Hillary Clinton, Tim Gunn, Sarah Silverman, and Kesha. Now the project has another notable name attached: Barack Obama. On Thursday, the White House posted a video of Obama delivering a message of encouragement to young people of minority sexual orientations. "You are not alone," the president says. "You didn't do anything wrong. You didn't do anything to deserve being bullied. And there is a whole world waiting for you, filled with possibilities. There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are."

Some bloggers have applauded Obama for aligning himself with the project, while others point out that the administration hasn't done as much as it could for the LGBT community. These criticisms echo charges leveled against the project itself for not doing enough to bring about real change. Here's a sampling of the reactions:

  • 'Beautifully Crafted and Gently Put'  The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan writes, "I think it's the first time in history that a US president has spoken directly to gay Americans in support from the White House. Which makes it a milestone." He goes on to say that "I have been very critical of this administration for its slow and cautious approach to gay civil rights ... But this is a real step in the right direction, and many of us are deeply encouraged by it."

  • Can You Imagine a Republican Doing This?  wonders Michael Jones at Change.org. Jones acknowledges that many in the LGBT community are frustrated with "the slow pace for change when it comes to equal rights," but calls for "a pause in that political battlefield... to recognize the power of having the leader of the free world send a message specifically for LGBT youth. Imagine that under a President George W. Bush, or if you want to look toward the future, imagine that from a President Palin, Romney, Gingrich, or Huckabee. Not gonna happen."

  • Don't Miss Brian Bond's Blog Post, adds David Dayen at Firedoglake, noting that Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, makes an impact with his personal story of struggling with suicidal impulses as a teen.

  • Sure It Gets Better! Just Don't Try to Join the Army...  Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin rolls her eyes at the president's efforts. "It gets better: but not so much better that you can, say, join the U.S. military without having to pretend you're not who you are, and forego the legal protections straight enlistees enjoy," Jardin writes. "'I support your differences! Up to a point.' That's the message, loud and clear."

  • ...Or Get Married  New York Magazine's Chris Rovzar is also skeptical. He quotes Obama: "There is a whole world waiting for you, filled with possibilities ... There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are." Then he adds a rider: "Said possibilities do not include military service. Or getting married, so don't get your hopes up about those people who love you just the way you are.")

  • Let's Not Crucify Obama Here  John Cole at Balloon Juice is taken aback by the vehemence of some of the commenters at Firedoglake. "So Obama makes an 'It Gets Better' video, and the reaction among our progressive betters is to debate whether or not he is history's greatest monster ... These people deserve a Republican House and Senate."

  • Dan Savage Responds  Savage, the advice columnist who launched the It Gets Better Project, reminded CNN that "the president of the United States and his administration have the power to make it better. To stop appealing ['don't ask, don't tell'], to stop defending [the Defense of Marriage Act] in court, and to make the changes that President Obama promised when he was candidate Obama to the LGBT community." Savage added that "I don't want to discount the symbolic importance of this ... We're extremely grateful, and we're looking forward to the president matching these words with actions."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.