LT. Dan Choi Takes "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Directly to Obama
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Last week, in an act of daring befitting a West Point graduate and veteran of Iraq, recently discharged New York National Guard Lieutenant Daniel Choi defied the orders of dozens of crowd control police and stepped into the 'no protest zone' street to ceremoniously salute his Commander in Chief, Barack Obama, out of site at a star-studded fundraiser at the posh Beverly Hilton Hotel.
While the Lieutenant's respectful salute was extemporaneous, the effort that generated the Lieutenant's appearance at last night's pro-gay rights/pro-equality rally outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel, was anything but impromptu. It was a meticulous plan spearheaded by Rick Jacobs, one of the progressive movement's most effective organizers. Jacobs, Founder and Chair of the Courage Campaign, which boasts a membership of 700,000, is a co-founder of Brave New Films and a director of Liberty Hill Foundation. When I asked Jacobs what the tie-in was with Daniel Choi playing such a prominent role at last night's event, he offered the following:
The Courage campaign seeks to make California more progressive and more governable. The state cannot possibly be progressive if we can use the Constitution to take rights away from people. So nearly two weeks ago we saw Daniel Choi on Rachel Maddow, when he "came out." He's an Orange County California native… So we got in touch with him and said, 'Hey we'd like to run a campaign to help support you, to prevent the president from kicking you and others out of the military. So we put up a letter on line. It's very simple. It says:
Dear Mr. President,
The time has come to end discrimination in our armed forces. We the undersigned ask you to stop the discharge of Dan Choi and any other soldier as a result of Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. We ask that you uphold your pledge and push Congress to quickly put a bill on your desk to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell.
Sincerely, the undersigned 140,860 people.
And you can see this at Courage Campaign if you scroll down to "Don't Fire Dan." A friend of ours is going to present this letter to the President inside tonight and we also are here. We're hoping the President will send a representative outside to see what we have to say. We have four big boxes - that's a lot of people - 140,000 people in a week. So the tie-in is very simple, this is all about equal rights. It's all about equality. We can win our equal rights in California but they mean nothing if we don't get them federally, so when we look at a young man like Daniel Choi who is willing to sacrifice his life for the country and gets thrown out of the military for saying I love a man, there's a problem. We elected President Obama based on a spirit of hope, bringing the country together and we expect him to do that.
Later at the rally, Jacobs proudly holds up the letter being delivered to Obama:
President Obama has been adamant about ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, but the longer he languishes, more seasoned, talented specialists like Arabic speaker Choi will be sacrificed by this discriminatory policy. It was this calculus that led Rick Jacobs and Equal Roots Coalition co-founder Matt Palazzolo, a co-organizer of last night's rally, to believe it would be helpful to have Lieutenant Choi close enough to the President to confront the issue directly, albeit not face to face. Thus, last night's rally, in addition to pursuing the right to gay marriage in California, was also to demand an end to Don't Ask Don't Tell.