Date: February 25, 2010, 7:00 pm
Location: IMU Main Lounge
On March 19, 2009, Lt. Dan Choi, a West Point graduate and Iraq veteran fluent in Arabic, announced that he was gay on The Rachel Maddow Show. Because of three words: "I am gay." Lt. Choi's life changed forever. Despite his extreme value as an Arabic speaker able to communicate quickly and clearly with the Iraqi people, one month after his announcement Lt. Dan Choi was notified that the Army had begun discharge proceedings against him. He was one of only eight soldiers from his graduating class who majored in Arabic.
At West Point, Lt. Choi recited the Cadet Prayer every Sunday. It taught him to "choose the harder right over the easier wrong" and to "never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won." The Cadet Honor Code demanded truthfulness and honesty. It imposed a zero-tolerance policy against deception, or hiding behind comfort.
Following the Honor Code isn't always easy, but honor and integrity are 24-hour values. That is why Lt. Choi refused to lie about his identity.
Lt. Choi served for a decade under Don't Ask, Don't Tell: a policy that forces American soldiers to deceive and lie about their sexual orientation and forces others to tolerate deception and lying. These values are completely opposed to what he learned at West Point. Deception and lies poison a unit and cripple a fighting force.
Lt. Choi is committed to applying the leadership lessons he learned at West Point. He helped form Knights Out, an organization of West Point alumni advocating for the rights of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
Lt. Choi is an inspiration to soldiers and veterans who feel isolated, alone, and even suicidal because the torment of rejection and discrimination. His leadership training taught him that soldiers cannot feel alone, especially in combat. Leaders must reach out. They can never diminish the fighting spirit of a soldier by tolerating discrimination and isolation. Leaders respect the honor of service. Respecting each soldier's service is his personal promise.
Lt. Dan Choi was born in Orange County, California. A first generation American, his parents emigrated from Korea and founded a church. He resides in New York and has become a full time activist for the LGBT community.