One Great Idea by Susan E. Parker
About the series
About the author
Susan E. Parker is the University Librarian for UBC.
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay official to be elected in the United States in 1977 at a time when the gay liberation movement was in its infancy and faced deep opposition. Milk’s speeches and actions exemplified the great idea that practical optimism is necessary in the fight for minority rights against powerful hate.
Milk delivered a speech during a rally on June 25, 1978. He talked about his experience coming out and the hopelessness he felt having no one to look up to. Milk reminded the crowd that his election was a signal of hope. To be treated equally, people who identify today as the LGBT2SQIA* community, must have a seat at the table.
On November 27, 1978 he recorded a tape, urging the community not to riot in the event of his assassination, but instead to come out. Milk’s last wish was that “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.” Milk’s optimism was prophetic. He was assassinated in his City Hall office the next day. In San Francisco, there were no riots that night, but rather a silent and peaceful march.
My own research on leadership shows how this kind of credible optimism moves people to change. Preserving and disseminating the words of leaders and the history of change is the work of the library. This is itself a labour of optimism that I hope will inspire others to action. As University Librarian, my message is also one of optimism for those who have and who will make history. They all have a place at the UBC Library.
*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Two-Spirit, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual