Kopkind’s Administrators Remarks at Marlboro College Commencement

12 05 2011

On Sunday May 15th 2011 John Scagliotti, Kopkind’s Administrator, will be recieving an honorary degree from Marlboro College. Below are his remarks given at the commencement ceremony.

“I’d like to thank President McCulloch-Lovell and Marlboro College for according me this honor. I was pleased to see that Marlboro College was recognizing me not only for my work in film and television but also for my role on behalf of the LGBT and allied community.

I am accepting this honorary degree in the memory of Ron Squires, an eighth-generation Vermonter, a neighbor and friend from my hometown in Guilford, who, as the first openly gay legislator in 1990, led the way to passage of legislation that would stop discrimination in the workplace and housing for gay and lesbian Vermonters. It was pioneering work, as Vermont became only the sixth state in the nation at the time to pass such civil rights legislation.

Ron died from complications of AIDS early in his life, at 41, right after winning his first re-election campaign. Ron’s work inspired many of us, including his mother, Shirley. Each May she has participated in the Brattleboro AIDS Walk in honor of her son. She walks again for the 19th time next Saturday. Over these past years, she has raised close to $200,000 for the AIDS Project of Southern Vermont.

The struggle for human rights has been hard fought, and my presence here is an indication of how far it has brought us. An old-timer from the black struggle in the South likes to say, “You can learn about history, you can read history, but when you’ve lived history, you can talk about it.” I guess I’ve done all three–and I could tell you stories–but, in the end, what’s driven me is the belief that if we really want a world fit to live in, if we have any hope of a just society in the future, we need to know our history of struggle, and we need to be vigilant in preserving it. For all our sakes, I hope the students graduating this year never stop learning history, and take the chance to live it.

On this important occasion for me, I asked my neighbor, the poet Verandah Porche, to write a few words to end my acknowledgement of the honor you bestow on me today. Verandah writes…

‘When the world hurts
and Death holds court with the patriarchs, in the hinterland are
loaves and fishes.
Love throws a pot luck.’

Thank you. “