Gay rights activist urged students to make a difference

A gay rights activist urged Harvard-Westlake students to try and make a difference in the world.

Kevin Jennings, the founder of the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, spoke to an upper school assembly Friday about his life as a homosexual, and the lack of equality in America.

It was Jennings’ third time speaking at Harvard-Westlake, and before his speech, he admitted that he was nervous. But even nervousness and technological difficulties with Jennings’ laptop slideshow presentation did not prevent him from delivering a rousing speech that moved some students to tears, ending with a standing ovation from the student body.

Jennings’ speech titled “American Dreams” focused on his struggle to fulfill his unique American Dream. In his speech, Jennings spoke about his childhood and his family background growing up as a preacher’s son in North Carolina.

At a young age, Jennings knew he was gay and he was exposed to racism growing up in the south in the 1960s.

Jennings compared his mother, who worked in the drive-through at McDonald’s to the widow in the story “The Widow’s Mite” in the Bible. In the story, Jesus recognizes that the widow only donates one coin, while wealthy men donated much more; however, the widow donated every coin she owned. Jennings described how his mother overcame her own upbringing to march with him in a Gay Pride Parade and volunteered at a hospice for men dying of AIDS.

Jennings concluded his speech by challenging the students of Harvard-Westlake to donate all their coins to make the world better.