Barack Obama Says ‘Protests And Politics Go Hand In Hand’ In Stonewall Anniversary Address

The former president commemorated Stonewall and the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

Barack Obama waves to reporters after returning to the White House
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The former president commemorated Stonewall and the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

Barack Obama was one of many voices commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots on Friday. In a virtual speech, the former president joined Taylor Swift, Ellen DeGeneres, Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, and many others in supporting Pride Live’s third annual Stonewall Day.

In his speech, Obama emphasized the way protests and politics often work together to make change a reality. He started by commemorating the 1969 riots, which he said sparked a movement that eventually led to marriage equality across the nation. This year, the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges was also Stonewall Day.

He also noted that the third annual celebration came just one week after the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ people are protected from workplace discrimination.

“All that progress is worth celebrating and reflecting on. The struggle and triumph for LGBTQ rights show how protests and politics go hand in hand, how we’ve got to both shine a light on injustice and translate those aspirations into specific laws and institutional practices,” Obama said.

The former president elaborated on that, encouraging those listening to his remarks to see the tangible impact that protests have on politics. He said that, whatever the cause may be, whether its discrimination in health care or broader social justice fights, he wants individuals to make themselves heard.

“I hope you know that your voice can make an enormous difference,” he said.

Obama also referenced specific activists that had made strides in the LGBTQ community. He said that people like Edie Windsor, Harvey Milk, and Bayard Rustin knew that political change was the result of action.

“Progress doesn’t happen on its own. It happens because we stand up, speak out, and demand change,” Obama said.

The 58-year-old concluded his remarks by encouraging those listening to continue protesting peacefully and asking them to register to vote ahead of this fall’s presidential election. His vice president, Joe Biden, also delivered a speech during the celebration.

In it, Biden referenced the ongoing protests sparked by racial injustice as well as the coronavirus pandemic and said that the Stonewall Riots are a symbol of hope during this challenging time. He also encouraged those listening to keep up the fight, saying that the battle for justice is far from over.

He made a promise, suggesting that the U.S. would once again become a “beacon of hope” for LGBTQ people both within the country and around the world. Biden’s full remarks on YouTube can be found here.