Florida International University
People walked out after my speech tonight. And I could not be more proud. Why? Because I told my story honestly, made points intentionally, shared truths openly, connected ideas naturally — and then answered questions directly with facts, kindness, presence, empathy, intellect, and tact. I saw the frustration, the conflict, the confusion in the faces of those who wanted to hate, debase or insult me and make me a fool when my nuanced perspectives, points and persona didn’t fit some loathsome archetypical box they intended to force me into within a misguided, arbitrary, overly simplified, yet hyper polarized framework lacking depth, relevance and truth. In the midst of what was a very robust Q+A, when challenged by conviction, sources and hard truths, a small group suddenly walked out in an attempted stunt of sorts. Undaunted, the remaining students waited, applauded and then we resumed rich dialogue, which became even more personal, raw, specific and meaningful.
So people, keep being yourself. Keep speaking out. Keep standing tall. Keep showing up. That is no small feat, especially given the wild, divided, tumultuous social and political landscapes on college campuses, across the nation and around the world today. Choosing indifference or apathy is not the answer, nor is walking away, recoiling in fear, closing off, backing down or willingly silencing oneself. Ruffling feathers, disrupting the status quo, posing a contest of ideas is not just okay, it’s an imperative. By living proudly, acting with integrity, listening intently and engaging humbly, we can begin to shift hearts and minds, break down broken systems, dismantle oppressive propaganda, build powerful coalitions, and change paradigms for the betterment of all peoples and our planet.
Thank you, Hillel at FIU, for the invitation and for your continued work to create welcoming, lively, connected spaces on campuses and in communities.