Friday, October 29, 2010

CW PIX11 Morning Show

Here's the morning show blog!  I was interviewed just following the update on Tyler Clementi's Rutgers' Suicide case as a part of the CW's actions to lend their voices to the "It Gets Better" Project.

Miss New York Claire Buffie Talks About Her Platform "Straight for Equality: Let's Talk"

so. many. psychiatrists.

piqued your interest?  Well I'll explain that in a minute.  Before I get to the psychs, let me start at the beginning of the week.  To be honest, I once again had to open my calendar in order to write this blog to say, "woahhh what in the world did I do this week?!" We left off on Monday. I had a great lunch meeting with Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell and Kenny Mack.  We talked about the Dignity for All Students Act, which he led through the Assembly to passage this summer.  An act that seems so simple and natural, and passed with all but 3 yes votes in the Senate, was denied through the Senate 9 times previously.  One decade.  That's how long it took to get 'sexual orientation and gender identity' under the discrimination bias of school harassment and bullying.  It was so great talking about where Dignity has been, where it's going, and how it will evolve and build...and how I can be a part of it.  Jazzed.

That night we also had a fantastic meeting with the new director of the Miss New York City pageant!!  Yayyy!!!  It's back - and in full force.  Details are still TBD, but I can share with you that there will be a Miss NYC, Manhattan and Southeast NY held together on the same day as the state sweeper which will crown Miss Metropolitan, Liberty and Greater Gotham.  The new director has great branding ideas and we look forward to building lasting strength in the NYC area together.

Tuesday, I took my first class at Actors Connection.  I did a teleprompter intensive with Patricia Stark, TV host and actress (and former Miss NY USA!)  It was a great, small class in which we learned the skills necessary to be successful on teleprompter and got lots of time to practice with intimate feedback.  I look forward to her 4-week hosting class which begins next week as well as doing some one-on-one media training for some upcoming exciting television spots we're looking into.

Then it was time for the psychiatrists.  You never know who you're going to sit next to at these dinners and galas.  At the Indiana ACLU dinner, I ended up sitting with a pediatrician and psychiatrist who was coming to NYC this week for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (mouthful.) along with 1500+ medical professionals from the U.S. and invited me to attend.  They set up a private lunch for me on Wednesday with some of the top psychiatrists in the country to have some facetime for real questions about bullying, with regards to sexual orientation, but universally with stigmatized youth, and what a public health issue this all truly is.  On Thursday and Friday, I attended workshops and clinical perspectives on Bullies, Targets, and “Frenemies”: Understanding and Preventing Bullying and Cyberbullying and Prevention of Bullying Related Morbidity:A Whole-Community Strategy. These were incredibly interesting and informative.  If I shared all of the things I learned, you and I would both be here all day, so we'll save that for another time.

So I was already having a great week, then Friday came.  My sister's flight from Detroit to Boston was cancelled on Thursday night, but they could get her to NYC, so she took the offer and surprised me for a little visit Thursday night.  Only problem with that was I wanted to stay up all night talking when I actually needed to be up at 4:50 am on Friday for the CW PIX-11 Morning Show (more in the next blog).  I managed that, and she got to see me in action and took some great pics!  From the morning show and getting Hannah off to Boston, I went to Union Square to the Beth Israel Pediatric Unit for a little Halloween celebration.  The kids were SO excited to see me (and once again, so was the staff!).  We read a spooky Halloween book together, talked about their Halloween costumes - Elijah was already in his Michael Jackson get-up. Ebrahim was the jam.  He's an 8 year old with a 6th grade reading level - so intelligent, very excited and thorough in meeting me, an avid Yankees fan with a serious evaluation of the Rangers v. Yankees game, and the kid who believes that the winner of Miss America should compete in Miss DIMENSION << insert intense sound effect >> because that's wwwaaayyy bigger than Miss Earth or Miss Universe!  He. Was. Awesome.  I think I have a new publicist. or boyfriend, I can't decide. These kids were so fun though and we had great photo ops.  Can't wait to share the pics with you when I receive them. Then it was off to the AACAP Conference and the gym, then home to relax and play Wii Tetris with my roommates. Yes, I'm that cool.

whew! I'm tired! Mock interviews tomorrow and personal training, topped off with brunch with friends and some Halloween celebrations -- with my roommate, Carlie (Mayo) as Ketchup and Mayo.  Again. so cool. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yay! I wanted her and Tom all along!

MAO Announces
Dancing With the Stars' Brooke Burke
as the Co-Host of the 
2011 Miss America Pageant

Photo Credit: Dana Fineman/Vistalux

Television personality and co-host of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, Brooke Burke won the hearts and votes of America when she became the show's Season Seven Champion with her dance partner, Derek Hough. Now she will take the stage and join Chris Harrison, ABC’s The Bachelor as the hosts to the 90thAnniversary of the Miss America Pageant presented by DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse live on ABC from Planet Hollywood Casino Resort, Las Vegas on Saturday, January 15, 2011.

Brooke Burke is a successful host, actress and entrepreneur. She is the co-CEO of the popular website and she will add author to her résumé when Penguin Books releases her first book in February.

President of the Miss America Organization, Art McMaster, stated, “We are thrilled to be working with Brooke for the 2011 Miss America Pageant and look forward to her joining us for the 90th anniversary celebration of this great American tradition. We welcome Brooke into our Miss America family, and we know she will be a wonderful co-host for this exciting milestone in our organization’s illustrious history.”

Live on January 15, 2011!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hospitals, Schools and Institutes...oh my!

On Friday, after finishing my talent music for Miss America with our music producer Jeremy Roberts, I went to Montefiore Children's Hospital in the Bronx to visit with some of the kids. With the theme of the world and the universe, it was a beautiful hospital with tons of murals, photos, artwork, etc. The kids were so excited to meet a queen and try on some crowns. Of course because of their protection, we don't have a lot of photos, but they were able to take some on their phones to show their friends and families.

Saturday, Alison and I went to New York Cares Day where we were two of the 7,000 people who volunteered around New York City simultaneously. Since service and volunteerism has been something so important to our mayor and the city of NY, Mayor Bloomberg appointed the first Chief Service officer, Ms. Billings, who shared something wonderful with us before we began the day. She said the goals is or people to "Use your ____ for the better.". Whatever your talent may be, there is a way for you to use it to make your community better and stronger. Regarding community service, she added, "No longer is it something nice, service is something necessary."

Alison and I spent most of our day refreshing murals on the 5th floor of PS 171M and then around lunch got to head down to help paint the big mural. 16year old Vinnie won a contest in which his design was selected to be painted on the wall of the school. It looked so great! Congrats to Vinnie and thank you to all of the volunteers and Colleen for inviting Alison and I to be part of such a cool day. If you are 18+ and interested in volunteering on any variety of projects with New York Cares, visit to submit an application and sign up for an orientation.  Read the CNN iReport and view pictures from the day HERE.

And lastly, Sunday I was able to head out to Brooklyn with my dear friend Keelie Sheridan, Miss Greater NYC, to the Block Institute's Brightest Star Preliminary Awards Ceremony. The Block Institute is an agency in Brooklyn that serves adults and kids with developmental disabilities. I also got to spend the day with the new Miss Brooklyn, Christina Moore, and together we passed out awards, certificates and medals to the semi-finalists and finalists in categories of achievement, spirit, independence, mastery and more. You could tell that everyone was once again excited to meet the queens; and if you think Miss New York is cool, you should see their reaction to Miss Brooklyn! She's famous!

Great weekend, wrapped up my family dinner with the roommates and excessive Halloween decor that has taken over our apartment in the best way possible.

Check it out!

Look who's in the background on page 17!  I've had this magazine for a while, but just got my new scanner - so here you go!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bill Buffie, the advocacy stud.

I've blogged about my dad and his proposal to the Indiana State Medical Association before, but here is the biggie! At the same time that I was speaking at the Marriage Equality rally at City Hall in New York a few weeks ago, my dad's resolution passed with amended language and was adopted by the Indiana State Medical Association. This makes Indiana the first state to accept such a resolution which acknowledges the health care disparities of same sex couples who do not have marriage equality. It is so exciting to see that one state at a time, from medicine to pageants, we are using our talents and abilities to change our society and advocate for equality across the board. The official resolution as it passed is below. I think it's safe to say, I'm a really proud daughter :)

You can also read the blog he wrote for the Human Rights Campaign Backstory Blog about the resolution.  Guest Post: Pageants, Medicine, and LGBT Rights

ISMA Resolution 10-02A, passed September 26, 2010 by the House of Delegates 
(following  discussion by Public Health Issues Reference Committee on September 25th)
Title:  Same-Sex Marriage:  Public Health Implications 
Introduced by William C. Buffie, M.D.
1) Whereas, legal marriage status confers numerous financial and legal benefits upon married individuals that improve access to health care;
2) Whereas, better access to health care results in lower overall mortality;
3) Whereas, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community has diminished access to health care;
4) Whereas, the LGBT community suffers from significantly worse mental and physical health  outcomes compared to the community at large;
5) Whereas, the American Medical Association, at the November 2009 convention, acknowledged that same-sex marriage bans do contribute to health disparities in the U.S.;
6) Whereas, evolving medical/social science literature attest to the health benefits conferred by the social and legal recognition of same-sex marriage;
7) Whereas, the ISMA is a body that is to be guided in its decision-making by science, reason, and public policy standards that promote the health and well being of all Indiana citizens; 
8) Whereas, same-sex marriage equality has not been demonstrated to have any deleterious consequences for society in general;
Therefore, be it resolved that the Indiana State Medical Association (1) recognizes that exclusion from civil union or marriage contributes to health care disparities affecting same-sex households; (2) will work to reduce health care disparities among members of same-sex households, including minor children; and (3) will support measures providing same-sex households with the same rights and privileges to health care, health insurance, and survivor benefits, as afforded opposite-sex households.

Friday, October 22, 2010

It gets better.

It does. And that's the message that hundreds of people are sharing on YouTube through the "It Gets Better" project associated with the Trevor Project. Celebrities, politicians in Texas, Broadway, and just ordinary people, both gay and straight, are reaching out to kids who have been victims of bullying and as a result have contemplated suicide. I wanted to share some of the best ones I have come across...

Chris Colfer, Glee

And my favorite: The Broadway Community

Joel Burns, Texas City Council Member

and just last night, look who added his message:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana

Irving and Bea Fink
This weekend I was invited back to Indiana to be the keynote speaker at the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana fall dinner. In the afternoon on Saturday, I participated in two "How to be a Straight Ally" workshops led by 17-year old Millie Cripe. She is an incredible ally who interned at PFLAG Nation and brought the Straight for Equality message back to Indiana. At the dinner, the ACLU honored Irving Fink, the founder of the ACLU Indiana chapter, a lawyer with an outstanding and courageous record in cases of cvil liberties. The theme was "Carrying the Torch of Liberty and Passing It On" complete with an image of the Statue of Liberty. I guess it was meant to be for me to be their guest keynote speaker.

I want to share a brief except of my 20 minute speech-yeah it was a long one...

My ultimate goal is to affect positive and lasting change. Whether that is through being Miss New York or Miss America, blogging about equality updates and my opinions, or being a really great sister and role model. Jobs may come and go, but your voice is always there and I think it’s important to use it as much as you can with your family and friends behind you. My mission is to open the dialogue about the civil rights movement of my generation and lead the conversation with strength, compassion and conviction, wrapped in respect, maturity and open-mindedness. 

Jane Addams said "… the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in mid-air, until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life." The laws will change, and it is imperative that they do; but our social climate must evolve as well to reflect the necessary equality that all people deserve. Whether it is beginning a revolution, becoming an activist, or simply opening a conversation or stopping the gay joke from being told at dinner, we all have a part in this change. It is our responsibility to defend our freedoms, our friends and families, and ourselves.

This dinner was really special because in addition to my parents, almost my entire family could be there - sisters Sarah and Hannah and her boyfriend Joel, my brother's fiancé Danielle and their son Logan (2 months old, wore a tie and a newsies hat), my grandparents and good friends Amanda and Brian. Thank you to Gil Holmes and all of the board members and volunteers of the ACLU of Indiana for inviting me to be a part of such a neat experience.

and just because he's the cutest thing I've ever seen -- here's another picture of my nephew Logan :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Empire State Pride Agenda Fall Dinner

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I've had the best week ever.  I started the week with the Columbus Day Parade and PFLAG NYC Dinner (read blog - see pics), had my last day at Apple until after Miss America (which was sad, but the right choice), went to the Empire State Pride Agenda Dinner, flew to Indianapolis for the America Civil Liberties Union Dinner, took my best friend's engagement pictures, and then 15 headshot photoshoots at Ball State University. All and all, it was amazing and I'm a pretty lucky girl!

But this dinner. Let me tell you about it.  Prior to the evening, the Pride Agenda had raised 1 million dollars.  Skipping ahead to the dinner, their live auction items went for $14,000, $18,000 and $20,000.  They also did a cell phone donation where everyone took out their cell phones and pledged to donate $x.xx via text message.  Since we're completely obsessed with technology and instant gratification, this worked. very well.  Over $17,000 was raised in a matter of 20 minutes.  I think Miss America needs to do this!  So that's just the incredible fundraising that happened in one evening to prepare the Pride Agenda for all of the necessary work that needs to be done in preparation for the November election and the votes that will be coming up in NY in the next year.  Let me jump back to the beginning of the night, at the VIP reception where gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo addressed the crowd with Speaker Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg standing with him.  I was proud to witness him make positive and empowering statements about what HE will do as our governor, leaving Carl Paladino out of it.  I took pictures on the red carpet with politicians, ESPA board members, cast members of My Big Gay Italian Wedding, and then she walked in.  Yes, if you've seen my facebook picture, Sarah Jessica Parker.  SJP and Andy Cohen were the co-hosts of the dinner and both soooo nice.  It was definitely exciting to meet them both!

As for the dinner, it was gorgeous - held at the Sheraton Times Square with 1,200 of New York's best dressed.  Flooded with politicos, Speaker Quinn, Governor Patterson, both Senators Gillibrand and Schumer all made wonderful remarks, condemning the hate crime gang attack in the Bronx, remembering the many kids who have committed suicide in the recent months, applauding Judge Phillips for the unconstitutional ruling of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and promising to be on the supportive side of marriage equality as it comes up again in the near future of New York State. Ross Levi, Pride Agenda Executive Director, held up a sign that he used in Washington in 2000.  We have seen growth or passage of each of the dreams and goals listed: Hate Crimes Law, Dignity for All Students, No Anti-Marriage Bill, etc.  Senator Gillibrand was the keynote speaker and I very much look forward to working with her on the Safe Schools Improvement Act on a national level.


And then it was my turn. After a beautiful dinner, that I could barely eat because I was so nervous, I was honored with the Douglas Jones Leadership Award, presented by co-chair of the dinner Mitch Karsch.  As I said in my speech, I was elated when Frank Selvaggi, chair of the dinner, invited me to attend and sit at one of his tables.  Really, they could have stopped there; but to receive this award was absolutely incredible.  In my speech, I referenced my experience with leadership and how so often I felt inferior to some leaders because my channel through which to create change was in pageants.  However, that perspective has completely changed and I am able to see the power of this voice and the platform that the Miss America Organization has given me - one for which I am amazingly grateful.  Thank you, Pride Agenda, for your faith in me and recognition of the value of our message as well as the ability to share it with more people.  Miss NY ED, Kenny Mack, and Co-Business Manager, Judy Bolton, were in attendance with my parents and me, and as an organization, I think we made great progress with partnerships that will benefit the growth and involvement of Miss New York - I can't wait to pursue those together. oh yeah...I met Jimmy Fallon too :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

90 Days til 90 Years!

I can't wait to update you on soooo many things that have happened this week/weekend, but for now, I only have time for a quick blog and I want to share this email with all of you!

Dear Friends,
Happy 90th Anniversary!  Today, we begin the 90-day countdown to the 2011 Miss America Pageant, when we will celebrate this milestone anniversary of our beloved tradition!

Through the decades, Miss America has been woven into our culture and into the fabric of America, and I am proud to welcome in a new era with your support! I would like to personally thank those of you who are currently supporting the Miss America Scholarship Foundation. In honor of our 90th Anniversary, I would like to request from all who are able, whether current, potential, or first-time donors, to please donate $90 (or more!) to commemorate this milestone in our prestigious history. Your consideration and donation will help to secure Miss America’s presence and importance in our country’s tapestry for another 90 glorious years!

As we reflect on the past, we also look to the future. Through your generous donations, we can continue to help young women across this country pursue their dreams through education. We are so very proud of all of our Miss Americas, our contestants, and of course, our dedicated volunteers. We would like to thank each and every one of you for your friendship and support of our program, day in and day out, and for helping to preserve our remarkable legacy as we celebrate our historic 90th year.

As the economy has challenged so many across the country, our organization has also felt the economic burden, and we are now in need of your continued generosity and your support. No matter the amount, your contribution is 100% tax deductible, and it will help young, deserving women to complete their college educations, pursue their dreams and to become our future leaders.

Together, we are helping to continue Miss America's legacy of helping others through the spirit of community service, one of the brightest hallmarks in our organization today.

Please send your anniversary check of $90.00 to: 

The Miss America Scholarship Fund / CFNJ
222 New Road, Suite 700
Linwood, NJ 08221 

or donate online using a credit card here:
Please remember the words of one of the most celebrated women in history, Eleanor Roosevelt, which are still so relevant today,

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

We hope that you will continue to help make dreams come true.

Art McMaster 
President, CEO

Thursday, October 14, 2010

PFLAG NYC and Columbus Day

Monday was awesome. Basically this was the day in which I covered the entire spectrum of what Miss New York does: the Columbus Day Parade and then the PFLAG NYC 30th Annual Dinner, celebrating the main organization I work with in my platform. Beginning with the parade, I rode in a classic white '56 Thunderbird down Fifth Avenue in a red dress, in honor of the thousands of Italians who came out to participate or watch. I'm pretty sure most of them thought I was Italian too...oops! Nope - this is just a Miss NY tradition thanks to our favorite Italian Linda Carbo! We took a lot of pics - and by we, I mean my mom who followed me pretty much the entire route to take pics with different backgrounds, specifically the Apple store :) So make sure to check out my photo gallery of October Events. PS. I met the Mayor again at the parade - 2 times in one week.

Then it was home to rest, but not have to redo hair and makeup haha for the PFLAG NYC dinner. As I arrived to host the VIP reception, I learned of some exciting news. While I was meeting the mayor, his office was calling PFLAG, asking to speak at our dinner. Drew, executive director of PFLAG, hung up from that phone call and had a voicemail from Christine Quinn, speaker of the City Council, asking to also speak at our dinner! So in addition to all of the great speakers and honorees we had lined up, we added these two prominent figures to the mix, which brought is a lot of press. The VIP reception was gorgeous on the top of TriBeCa rooftop with amazing food and views. I was able to spend time with Kate and Jerry Hathaway, Anne Hathaway's parents and long time supporters of PFLAG and the Pride Agenda, Thomas Roberts from my MSNBC interview and his mother Michelle, Brian Burke, our featured honoree and US Men's Olympic Hockey Coach, Paul Tagliabue, former commissioner of the NFL, Rory O'Malley and Jenny Kanelos from Broadway Impact, Christine Quinn, Danny Drumm, Mayor Bloomberg, and of course the celebrities of our table, my wonderful friends and family who could attend.

After a fantastic kickoff and welcome from Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn, our emcee Rory O'Malley kicked things off with by honoring JetBlue for being a loyal corporate sponsor for many years. (I met the VP and I'm looking forward to meeting with him about the Miss New York Org!) Following JetBlue, Point Scholar and Foundation alum James Mize introduced David Steward, co-chair of the Point Foundation, which awards scholarships to LGBT marginalized youth. As the focus of the dinner was our Safe Schools program which has grown immensely because of the PFLAG dinner last year, I spoke about my experiences in schools, specifically sharing stories from ACCION Academy in the Bronx. Perhaps the most moving part of the evening followed when Paul Tagliabue, former NFL commissioner, gave a touching and glowing introduction of our Stay Close Leadership in Sports recipient, Brian Burke US Men's Olympic hockey coach. In short, Brian is a father who in February lost his son to a tragic car accident. Brendan was gay. He was a hockey player too. Brian was emotional as this was he first time he spoke in public about Brendan's death. His message was poignant, (paraphrased) "Don't applaud me. I just loved my son unconditionally and I look forward to the day when this award does not exist." Agreed.  He concluded the evening presentations leaving everyone emotionally invested in the night, the cause, the youth we are targeting, and the necessary growth and development within PFLAG NYC.  And on that note, we ended with our live call/auction and I cannot wait to hear what the final results of our fundraising totaled.  It was an inspiring evening, one I will not forget.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Well, not exactly slacking...just very very busy! In a quick review, this past week and a half included sitting in on an NYPD discussion with the Anti-Violence Project about treatment of LGBT people by the police force, a visit to Staten Island for the Coming Out Day Picnic, skin treatment by Dr. Virgil Hatcher at Chelsea Dermatology, cocktail reception at Gracie Mansion where I was able to quickly meet and snap a photo with Mayor Bloomberg, a great hair cut with Marc D'Orsay, the Pencil Program Principal for a Day Luncheon, producing my talent music for Miss America with Jeremy Roberts...AND I worked, did two sets of headshots and spent some time at the gym.  whew!  It was a busy week, but an incredibly productive one.

Yesterday, a few more things happened.  I spent the morning with Kandice Pelletier, Miss NY 2005, for breakfast and a chat and then took a look at a fantastic line of dresses by Lauren Gabrielson.  Lauren is a 22-year old AMAZING designer with great clothes, all custom made to your color choice.  Both Kandice and Lauren were wearing the same dress in two great colors - great shift day to night, casual to dressy - and I'm just stuck on what color I want to get it in!  Lauren would be a fantastic person to have a custom interview dress made by.  I tried on a few dresses that would be really great for that occasion. She has a showroom in Brooklyn, store in Sag Harbor, and website but even more in her line than is displayed there.

Then it was off to the airport to pickup my parents for a fundraiser for A Thousand Moms in the Hamptons.  It was a small group, so if you would like to donate, please visit their website to do so. We had a really nice time visiting with supporters of the organization, and my favorite part, meeting Zoia (sp?).  Let me tell you about this girl.  She's 8 now.  At 7 though, she spoke to the United Nations about proving funds to provide medication to pregnant women with HIV in order to stop the spread to their unborn children. 7. years. old.  Just incredible.  Her moms were delightful to talk with and obviously a huge part of why she had the conviction to speak on such a topic so early. She's a rockstar :)

Simultaneously, it was killing me to not be at Miss Brooklyn/County Queen!  I heard it was a great show and I'm excited to spend time with the new girls!  Congratulations to Miss Brooklyn 2011, Christina Moore (& Overall Talent Winner), and Miss "County Queen" Tara Szczepanski!  Tara's title is yet to be determined based on her residency - I'll keep you updated!  And we'll need to work on how to pronounce that one :)  I met Tara last year at my local when she came to support the local, so I'm happy she's joining us in the New York Organization!  Congratulations to Joelle Bracco and Mallory Hagan for a great year as Miss Brooklyn's OT and Miss Brooklyn!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

5 times this month.

I went the the grocery store ... 5 times this month.
I almost overslept for work ... 5 times this month.
My roommate made a home-cooked, sit-down dinner with her boyfriend ... 5 times this month.
I read The Week for interview prep ... 5 times this month.
I called Faith Ossmann from the Miss New York Board ... 5 times this month.

Somewhere, a boy committed suicide because he was bullied at school for being gay
... 5 times this month.

Really?  How do you write about something like this?

Yesterday, I spent the day at Great Neck Middle School, talking to four blocks of classes about my platform as Miss New York and the focus I have on bullying amongst youth.  It's not a motivational speech when I go into a school; it's a challenge.  I cut through and ask these kids to share their stories, to open up and share what they are really seeing, hearing and feeling at school.  When I asked, "So who is responsible for changing the spread of bullying?" a kid in each class raised his or her hand and said "We are."  Ownership.  That's what I'm challenging these kids to do - to take ownership and responsibility for changing their own schools and their own generation.

I held up photos of the four boys who have committed suicide in the past month. (Little did I even know that another openly gay 19 year old had committed suicide the day before...#5)  They all recognized Tyler Clementi, the 19 year old freshman at Rutgers who jumped off the George Washington Bridge this week after being secretly videotaped with another boy in his dorm room by his roommate, who then leaked the video onto the Internet.  I told the stories of Asher Brown (13yrs, shot in his head, TX), Seth Walsh (13yrs, hanging, CA), Billy Lucas (15yrs, hanging, IN). When the teacher slid a rainbow flag that read safe space onto the desk next to me, I knew it was my cue. I had been given the go ahead to really talk about why these kids had committed suicide - anti-gay bullying.  These four boys had been bullied and harassed in and out of school to a point where they only saw suicide as the way out.  This has become a trend. And we are in crisis.  I played Ellen Degeneres' video and let the kids tell me their reactions.  They were polite and respectful, interested and wise, engaged and undoubtedly affected.  What a way to start off my school visits - regardless of the disgusting rain I slushed through to get there.

Once again, I hear that these students are ahead of the game in their acceptance; they said that if those boys had gone to their school, they would not have killed themselves because they would have been accepted, or the teachers would have done something to stop it.  That's incredible to hear.  But it's still happening and it's something, specifically the issue of gay youth since kids are coming out so early now, that we have to address.  I was so grateful to have been able to really dig deep with these kids and leave a lasting impression.  "When you watch Miss America on ABC on January 15 with your families, what are you going to tell them that Miss New York told you at school?"
  • That being gay is ok and you're not a bad person because of it.
  • That no one should be bullied or made fun of because they're different.
  • Stand up for what you believe in and help your friends.
  • Everything you say is important and you should think before you speak or act.

From Facebook, blogs, and Twitter, I have seen that many of the Class of 2011 Miss America Contestants from all across the country are talking about bullying in schools.  As I wrote to one of them, if our class can make a significant dent in the epidemic that bullying has become, that will be the legacy of our class; and I'm confident that we are on that road.