He was one of the very few public figures who could connect the dots. Even though Harvey Milk didn’t use that clichéd expression, “to connect the dots”, in his speeches, he lived it.
Most of us think of Harvey Milk as a freedom fighter and activist for the LGBTQ community. We forget, however, that Milk deeply felt and advocated on the side of all disenfranchised human beings. He demonstrated that fact during his short term as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
While Harvey Milk understood the power of the political slogan, he realized that a public servant had to live up to and surpass the implied promises of slogans and mottos. He lived his life and worked as a representative of the people of his city knowing that sound bytes are only superficial things.
In a public statement, Milk said, in part, “Two days after I was elected I got a phone call and the voice was quite young. It was from Altoona, Pennsylvania. And the person said, “Thanks”. And you’ve got to elect gay people, so that thousand upon thousands like that child know that there is hope for a better world; there is hope for a better tomorrow. Without hope, not only gays, but those who are blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’s: without hope the us’s give up. I know that you can’t live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, and you have got to give them hope.”
To people of all persuasions struggling to achieve their utmost, positive goals of dignity, liberty, and equality, Milk’s legacy continues in the “Harvey Milk Foundation”. In 2009, Harvey Milk Day received official sanction in the State of California as a day of special significance in that state. Furthermore, Harvey Milk Day is celebrated each year on Milk’s birthday, May 22nd, by the LGBTQ Community and their allies around the world.
Milk’s dedication to public education and free discussion was his legacy as a civil rights leader. His vision was for all people to envision and actively live life to manifest a better world. He often spoke of the fact that gay rights are human rights. If anyone cannot live free and enjoy equal rights, all of humanity is at risk of losing freedom and liberty.
Harvey Milk was also fully aware that many people not only oppose LGBTQ civil rights but actively harm lesbians and gay men. He knew that because he openly worked for universal civil liberties that some people hated him and that his life was in danger every day. He knew that he was at dire risk of becoming a martyr for his causes. During one of his speeches, Milk stated, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet also destroy every closet door in the country.”
That fateful day did arrive when he was shot execution style, by ex-Supervisor Dan White. Milk and San Francisco mayor George Moscone were murdered on November 27, 1978. The victims were the targets of extreme homophobia and a premeditated plot to kill them and two other members of the Board of Supervisors. By a stroke of luck, Carol Ruth Silver and Willie Brown were saved by being out of the building at the time of the murders.
It is on Harvey Milk Day that he is remembered for his warmth and human goodness that endeared him to the citizens of the Castro neighborhood and all of San Francisco then eventually to fair-minded people in the entire world.
The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes you understand the inate instinct for freedom and liberty within all of us, regardless of political or religious opinions.