Our first annual Respect Awards Gala, held May 19 at the Mandarin Oriental in New York City and co-hosted by Cynthia Nixon and B.D. Wong, was nothing less than spectacular. The ballroom was filled to its 500 seat capacity. At some point in the evening it seemed that all were moved to laughter and tears by the remarks made by our presenters and honorees alike, and felt inspired by their commitment to educating the public about the acceptance and respect for all k-12 students.
After a moving introductory GLSEN video, Executive Director Kevin Jennings kicked off the program and provided an overview of all the amazing things we’ve accomplished in the last 9 years, but brought everyone back down to earth with sobering statistics reminding everyone that there is still a long way to go in reaching a place where school based anti-LGBT bias and
violence are the rare exception rather than the norm.
The recipients of the first annual Respect Award were Marina Gatto, a 16 year-old safe schools activist from California (presented by Leslie Sadasivan and Danielle Kirkland, whose brother and son committed suicide at age 15 rather than continue to face the anti-LGBT bias and bigotry in his high school), Andrew Tobias, author and treasurer of the Democratic National Committee (presented by student activist and former GLSEN board member Nathan Triplett), and MTV Chairman and CEO Judy McGrath accepted the award on behalf of MTV Networks (presented by rocker Lenny Kravitz).
It was announced at the top of the program that the event had significantly exceeded all financial projections and would gross $500,000. However, late in the event, current National Board member Tom Kraemer had a big surprise for Jennings. Kraemer let Jennings know that he was making a $100,000 challenge grant to encourage those in attendance that were hearing about GLSEN for the first time to get involved. The challenge was met within less than a week putting the total gross for the event at $700,000!
If you would like to see a few photographs of selected 2004 Respect Awards participants please go to: