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Stuart Milk reflects on Harvey Milk and Joan Kroc
On Thursday, February 25, 2011, “Coffee with Milk” was a well attended event in the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Rotunda and Theatre. Stuart Milk, nephew of gay rights leader Harvey Milk and family representative, was hosted by USD PRIDE with support from PRIDE Law, Young Democrats, Torero Programming Board, and Rainbow Educators. Senior Joseph Rocha, President of Pride and a U.S. Navy Veteran, organized the event and led the relaxed conversation with Milk.
Stuart Milk opened his remarks by connecting Harvey Milk’s mission with the late Joan Kroc. On Tuesday, December 1, 2009, Harvey Milk and Joan Kroc were inducted into the California Hall of Fame by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver. Stuart accepted the award for his uncle Harvey, as did Linda Ardell Wendfeldt for her mother Joan. In a private conversation, Linda expressed that Joan would have been very supportive of Harvey Milk’s work and legacy, and Stuart Milk’s ongoing activism for human rights. Stuart was very touched by the exchange, and felt honored to be here at the University of San Diego in Joan Kroc’s building and legacy for peace and justice.
Milk also connected with the Catholic community as he reflected on his experience at the University of San Francisco (USF) in 2003. USF, a Catholic Jesuit University, held a week-long series of events in honor of the 25th anniversaries of the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Stuart again was honored to be invited by the University of San Diego, and its Catholic heritage. He remarked that being LGBTQ in a Catholic context is not always easy. Nonetheless, as he recalled some of the troubles last year on campus with the Pride Dance, Stuart emphasized the importance of being authentic. He quoted his uncle, who would say: “If we are not authentic, we put on a mask. And then the world is less. To be able to take off that mask is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other on earth.”
Milk had the honor of accepting the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for Harvey Milk from President Barack Obama on Wednesday, August 12, 2009. Stuart reflected on another conversation he had with another recipient, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who, in his humble demeanor, encouraged Stuart and the Harvey Milk Foundation to continue its work to end discrimination around the world, saying: “Homophobia is one of the only world-wide discriminations.”
Also in 2009, Stuart Milk co-founded the Harvey Milk Foundation which addresses just that – the eradication of systemic discrimination through education and advocacy for every LGBT person to live free and authentically. To try and stop teen suicides, the foundation is working with school counselors to learn about LGBT identity and issues, and to address them before discrimination and suicides take place. The foundation also works to build a global movement for change. In the future, Stuart hopes universities, cities, and countries will celebrate Harvey Milk’s birthday around May 22 with events such as the one hosted by USD Pride – to bring light to LGBT identity, and issues of discrimination and universal human rights.
For the 2009 California History Museum honorees:
For the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients:
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