THE BLOG
06/24/2011 10:19 am ET Updated Aug 24, 2011

Six Things the President Could Have Said to the Gay Community

I am not on the fence. Barack Obama is my president. There will be no suspense in 2012. I will vote for him again. He is the best thing to happen to the gays since (insert your own answer here ____).

So of course, I was rooting for him to hit a home run last night at the Sheraton at his first ever gay fundraiser. Not a home run. Oh no, you're saying -- she is one of those hypercritical lefties who is never satisfied. But give me one more minute.

I don't think what follows is whiny or hypercritical. I consider it constructive feedback. But judge for yourself.

1) Never Take a Vote for Granted (even if you can).

Every single person in that room last night thought this at one point or another -- even if we were impatient with progress, even if he did not say he supported marriage equality, he's still our man. How about acknowledging that in some way?

"I am here this evening because I want your support. I will never assume your support. I need to work to earn it. And I plan to continue to do just that."

2) Honor your audience.

We're marginalized and second class citizens. Flatter us. We like it. Especially when it's true. 700 people in that room have been in the business of "change" for decades.

"I don't have to tell this room full of people that change does not come easy. Every single one of you is in the change business. For decades, you have stood up, come out, taken risks, put yourselves on the line in the interest of creating a more perfect union. So it is I who should be thanking you."

3) Put the Stump Part of the Speech in Context.

I heard some whiny person say last night that it was "stump speech with a good dose of gay." Not true. A closer look: the speech is ½ stump, ½ gay. And for me, stump is A-OK in context. Try a bridge like:

"This is a smart group of people. You understand the issues and do your homework. So I would never assume you to be single issue voters. So I'd like to talk about where we traveled these last two and ½ years...." (this way, I am more likely to listen to stump part rather than looking at my watch wondering when the gay stuff will kick in)

4) Caution vs. Impatience

We need some other language besides 'there's still a lot to do.' Some variation of this appeared numerous times in the speech. Next time, try playing around with the dichotomy of caution and impatience and what can feel like a cavernous space between the two. Or try to turn 'caution' to your advantage, maybe even to hecklers.

"Now look, I understand impatience. Why do you think I ran for president? (Wait for laughter to build slowly.) And I hear that impatience in your voices -- you think I'm too cautious. I think about it a bit differently. For me, it's about making sure we get there! (pound podium for emphasis!) And by the way, "caution" has gotten quite a few victories these last 2 ½ years"

5) If you can't say the word, bring the room to its feet

The entire room wants/hopes that you will come out (no pun intended) in favor of marriage equality but already knows it ain't happening. How do you manage that disappointment? Sounds like a mighty tall order but how about:

"In 1989, I met a woman who would become my best friend and my life partner. I am in the process of living happily ever after with her. As a couple, Michele and I have rights, we have responsibilities and above all, we have joy. It is what I wish for every person in this room tonight."

6) Tell YOUR story, not someone else's.

All of us who've given advocacy speeches know the drill. The (INSERT PERSONAL STORY) drill. Powerful stories create an important moment in a speech that calls people to action. And the email he referenced was all of those things. BUT the home run? The president's own story. I don't offer a quote here because I don't know the story. But I'm pretty sure it involves his kitchen table and his daughters. Maybe about bullying, about an openly gay friend of Malia's, a discussion about a film. Maybe it's about watching Modern Family together. Some "teachable" moment that talks about the world your daughters will inherit.

So you be the judge. Constructive or whiny? Or perhaps presumptuous? Who am I to offer feedback to one of the best public speakers of our time? Hypercritcal leftie? I prefer engaged citizen with a voice.