David Bohnett Speeches

David Bohnett Remarks Upon Acceptance of Abele Impact Award from the LGBTQ Victory Fund

Thank you, Senator Baldwin … Tammy … for that incredibly gracious introduction.  Coming from you, my friend of more than two decades, your words are so special and heartwarming.

And just a word about Senator Baldwin.  You know, the first thing folks always say is, “she‘s so nice”!  Perhaps it’s her Wisconsin manners … her ready smile and ability to put anyone at ease.  But back in 1998 … when Tammy became the first openly LGBTQ person elected to Congress it wasn’t because she was “nice” … it was because the people of Madison knew she was a tireless social justice advocate … and that she would have their back.

And in 2012 … when she beat her opponent … a former governor and cabinet secretary … to become the first openly LGBTQ person EVER in the United States Senate, the people of Wisconsin knew her as a proven and tireless leader who would always place their priorities first.

When, last year, Senator Baldwin delivered 61 bi-partisan votes on the Senate floor … and sent the historic Defense of Marriage Act to the Oval Office for President Biden’s signature … her Senate colleagues knew her as a trusted and loyal friend, someone who keeps their word and will never let them down.

And we will all make sure that Senator Baldwin is re-elected in 2024 because we have the back of one of the most consequential senators in US history!

Thank you, Mayor Parker and, of course, Chris Abele … for your leadership and generosity … and for making the Victory Fund and the Leadership Institute the gold-standard of an engaged and committed community.

This is a fabulous looking crowd … and I know that each of us thinks that we have the wisest and smartest and most talented table mates … and I am so lucky to share my table with Senator Baldwin, Deborah Rutter and Leslie Miller, the President and the Chief Advancement Officer of the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, AND, my dear friend, … the Chair of The Biden Institute and First Sister of the United States … Valerie Biden Owens.

As Senator Baldwin mentioned, my background is in technology.  I am a voracious consumer of the latest applications and scientific know-how.  So, when preparing these remarks, I thought I’d let the AI language model ChatGPT give it a go.

Now, in all fairness it did a pretty decent job … it highlighted the history of Victory and the pioneers who, back in 1991 founded it … the campaigns it has waged … the thousands of activists trained … the hundreds of candidates elected.  

So now, I let’s try a little experiment. I’m going to read the next paragraph of my remarks, and then ask for a show of hands on who thinks I wrote the material, or, did ChatGPT write it. Here we go; 

“I stand before you tonight not just as an individual, but as a representative of the countless people who have worked tirelessly to create a more inclusive and just world. I am humbled by this recognition, and I am inspired by the dedication of our community.”

Please raise your hand if you think I wrote that material, and who thinks it was written by ChatGPT …..

ChatGPT wrote it. 

Let’s try this once more. I’m going to read the next paragraph and then ask for a show of hands; 

“….as a philanthropist and activist, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in many causes throughout my life. But if you had told a young David Bohnett, growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, that one day he’d be standing in front of a room full of fabulous people, receiving an award for advancing LGBTQ rights, I would have said, “You’ve got the wrong David honey!”

Please raise your hand if you think I wrote that material, and who thinks it was written by ChatGPT …..

Again, ChatGPT !

But the one part that ChatGPT can’t quite capture … at least not yet … is the personal motivation behind my efforts.  

Since the founding of the David Bohnett Foundation over 20 years ago… we’ve invested consistently and significantly promoting LGBTQ civil rights… from marriage equality to our signature CyberCentercomputer labs at more 50 LGBTQ Community Centers from coast-to-coast.

And since 2002, the David Bohnett Foundation has provided the funding for 164 Bohnett Victory Fellows to attend Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, for an intensive three weeks of leadership education.  We have made this investment, not because an AI algorithm said it was a wise idea … but because we know that if our community is to achieve full equality … our elected and appointed officials need to be the best educated, empowered, and prepared.

Some of those 164 are here in the room today … Groundbreakers like Ohio Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio and Alameda County Judge Tara Flanagan … great friends like California Senator Evan Low… and the always wise and witty Massachusetts’s State Senator Julian Cyr.

And there are 160 more out there who day in and day out embrace the passion and purpose that is the hallmark of our community.

My political work and my philanthropy come from the same place … a belief in our collective ability to ‘improve society through social activism’.  I believe now, more than ever, that our best days … and our greatest achievements as LGBTQ people … are ahead of us … and well within our reach.  Everyone in this room … through the ripples of relationships we all have that extend beyond these walls, has the ability, indeed the responsibility, to fulfill our part of that collective promise.

I’m privileged to serve on the Board of the Kennedy Center here in Washington, the Center is truly our nation’s cultural center … the only US institution that presents a free performance every single day of the year!

From dance to drama to The Kennedy Center Honors … everything you see is the product of a glorious and well-orchestrated team effort …

I think being an activist is a parallel to those performances … where everyone has a role and we must all be allowed to flourish.  Whether you write a check or serve on a local commission … whether you run for office or lead the local GOTV effort … from Capitol Hill to City Hall … we each, in our own way, need to take to the stage … and to be seen and heard and felt, with Victory leading the way!

Finally, I’ll close with these sentiments written collaboratively with our friend this afternoon, ChatGPT; 

“Together, we have faced challenges, we have overcome obstacles, and we have made progress. But we can’t rest on our laurels – … We must continue to stand up, speak out, and fight for the rights of every member of our community.

So, as I accept this award, I pledge to use my voice, and my resources, to continue the fight for LGBTQ rights. Because, as the great Harvey Milk once said, “Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.”

Thank you again for this incredible honor, and to the LGBTQ Victory Fund for their unwavering commitment to our cause. “