Excerpts from President Kim’s Remarks to DGALA

Excerpts from President Kim’s Extemporaneous Remarks to DGALA Members at DGALA Mini-Reunion, June 19, 2010

Let me offer you my warmest welcome.  Thank you so much for coming back.  And I would like particularly to thank Caroline and Pam for providing such great leadership on this campus.  … 

It was a very emotional experience for me to speak at the DGALA reception last fall.  …  I met Thomas Song ’53; he was the first person of Korean descent ever to be at Dartmouth, and I was so glad to meet him.  In welcoming him, tears flowed from both of our eyes.  And I told him that it is so important for you to come back here, because our current students need you.  They need to see that even though you may have had bitter experiences – and he did; he told me that he had bitter experiences – but he said that despite the marginalization and exclusion that he faced, that he still loved this place.  … The fact that people can have been here and have had bitter experiences, and yet still come back and love this place has taught me that this is a very special place.  But it also taught me that we have a lot of work to do  — we have to make sure that that never happens in this day and age.  I have made it clear to the gay and lesbian students on campus and to Pam that I am the defender in chief if anything ever happens, and I won’t hesitate and I will jump right in if there are incidents on campus if [harassment or discrimination] happens.  … 

 I grew up as an Asian American in Iowa, and there is something about being betwixt and between all the time that I think is a source of great creativity.  It was different for me than for all of you, but I think celebrating difference and embracing it is a path not just for a normal life but for a kind of heroism that I had never seen before.  Let me explain what I mean.  I think that the greatest act of solidarity in the last 50 years was the solidarity shown by mostly gay men around the issue of HIV.  First it was a solidarity to each other…. I watched as they organized, took over buildings and demanded that we pay attention to this disease and not use it as an excuse for isolating, alienating and blaming the people who had contacted the virus.  … And later they led the charge to make sure that these drugs were available to people in Africa and people in Haiti, people I was working with.   So I don’t think its just a matter of tolerating different lifestyles; that’s not what we’re supposed to do here at Dartmouth; … it’s to give each student here, whatever their background, whatever their sexual orientation, whatever their identity, the sense that their personal experiences can lead to great acts of solidarity and heroism, just like gay men displayed.  … We need to transform the way people in this country, and certainly the way people on this campus, think about sexual orientation – it’s not a matter of lifestyle choice, but in a context where you can fear marginalization it can also lead to great heroism.  That was my experience.  That’s the experience that I bring with me here. 

 And I want to say again, just as I said last fall, we need you to come back because we need you to interact with our students of today, and we need you to help us demand that everybody on this campus will leave here with a fully modern and enlightened view of what difference means.  So I thank you for coming back.  If you ever hear that I’m not responding to issues in the way that I should, I want you to be in contact with me directly.  … We are going to our best to be sure that our young people leave here fully prepared to deal with the modern world, and having a culture where people feel ostracized and attacked because of sexual orientation is something that we will not tolerate.  But moreover, we also want to be a campus that celebrates your community in a way that’s appropriate, and we’re working on it; I can’t tell you the details yet, but we’re working on a way to celebrate DGALA and current students in a way that we hope will make you proud.  … So thank you for coming back and thank you for your support of Dartmouth College.

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