I lived in California, less than 100 miles from San Francisco, when Harvey Milk was elected as the first openly gay city supervisor. Sadly, however, I don't have much personal recollection of the events. I do recall my parents talking about it briefly in a "what is the world coming to?" sort of tone; but, I was young, still in high school, and not too interested in current events. I was serving on my LDS mission in Missouri when he was shot and killed in 1978 and was not even aware that it had happened.
Contrast that to a year earlier, while on my mission, when Elvis Presley died - when my companion and I were having to console one of our investigators who was totally distraught over the news. The sad truth is, on the national stage, Harvey Milk was barely a blip back in the 70's.
While Harvey Milk's influence may have been localized during his life - his vision has grown since his death to be larger than life. I imagine more people today could tell you who Harvey Milk was than could tell you the name of their state legislators.
His legacy has left us with the following memorable quotes
“My name is Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you.”While the world is not perfect, it is a safer environment for homosexuals today than it was during Harvey Milk's lifetime - Regardless of where we are - married, partnered, or single, sexually active or celibate, believer or non-believer - all of us have benefited from the tireless hours he, and others, put forth for our behalf.
“I cannot prevent anyone from getting angry, or mad, or frustrated. I can only hope that they’ll turn that anger and frustration and madness into something positive, so that two, three, four, five hundred will step forward, so the gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects … I hope that every professional gay will say ‘enough’, come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help.”
“More people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, my friends, that is true perversion.”
“all young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”
“If a bullet should go through my head let that bullet go through every closet door.”
“I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you… And you… And you… Gotta give em hope.”
“All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.”
“Hope will never be silent”
Let us not forget - and keep his memory alive.