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Harvey Milk and the “Hope” Speech, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 470

Essay

In his famous speech, Milk used inductive reasoning to conclude that his election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was proof that gay people were able to be elected in 1977, and that this was evidence that the marginality of being gay had been challenged forever. The ad hominem language in the speech, such as “Unless you have dialogue, unless you open the walls of dialogue, you can never reach to change people’s opinion. In those two weeks, more good and bad, but more about the word homosexual and gay was written than probably in the history of mankind” succeeded in inspiring the gay community to have pride in themselves.

Milk referenced Anita Bryant, an anti-gay fringe persona who was strongly campaigning against gay rights and the quality based on her sweeping generalizations about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior. His desire is to make Anita Bryant a strawman, irrelevant and insignificant to the vast gay rights community and movement. He cited her superstitious thinking when he described that she blamed a drought on his election, begging the question of why, then, it began to rain as soon as Milk was sworn into office.

Milk regarded the media generalization that the country was leaning towards the right as a complete fallacy, citing the fact that the words “gay” and “homosexual” appeared in every single newspaper in various articles, despite the fact that they were pro or con; he utilized his concept to illustrate that no matter how people felt, gay people had a presence on the American stage that could not be denied or ignored. Rather, he characterized it as a movement to the left, in which many changes were occurring in the nation: marijuana was decriminalized in Mississippi, and a gay person was elected to office in San Francisco in 1977.

These events, as well as the civil rights progress of black people and Latinos nationally and internationally begged the question, for Milk, of why the gay community could not also mobilize themselves to elect gay leaders who would have the authority and the prestige to raise the status of the gay community. His point was that only when gay people were able to be in leadership positions would things change from their traditional status as an underclass to a population with full rights and equality.

Harvey Milk wanted to encourage gay youth to resist their impulse to stay closeted and rather, to fight so that gay people would have higher profiles and people would realize that they were permanent parts of their communities. His speech was forever regarded as “the Hope speech” because of the message of optimism, encouragement, and support he conveyed to the San Francisco community about the election of gay people in California to leadership positions.

Reference

“The Hope Speech: Harvey Milk.” danaroc.com. N.p., 2012. Web. 28 Feb 2012.     <http://www.danaroc.com/guests_harveymilk_122208.html>.

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