Differences will make you, Black tells grads

Khaled Sayed Photography. khaledphotos.com
Khaled Sayed Photography. khaledphotos.com

Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black told graduates at City

College of San Francisco that they should celebrate who they are and

that their differences will make them valuable.

Black delivered his commencement address to a record 2,456 graduates

and thousands of friends and family members in the college’s Ram

Football Stadium Friday, May 23. Black, 39, himself is a community

college student, having graduated with honors from Pasadena City

College before attending UCLA’s School of Film and Television.

“I look out at this crowd of graduates and I see an ocean of gorgeous

differences,” Black said. “Let’s be honest. Everyone of us here today is a

minority in one way or another. It just depends on how you slice that

pie. After your celebration I want you to think about the way you are

different. For some of you like me, I think that difference might be

covered in shame. I’m telling you today: rip that shame off of your

differences. Your differences are what will make you valuable, what

will make you marketable, what will make you beautiful.”

Black asked the graduates to use their differences to create ties to

different communities wherever they are.

“I want to ask you to take these differences, and think about what you

can do with your differences to build bridges to other people to other

communities,” Black said. “To build bridges of understanding that will

unify us again; to build what Harvey Milk called the coalition of the


Black won an Academy Award in 2009 as best screenwriter for Milk ,

the biopic about the slain San Francisco supervisor.

In his speech, Black mentioned growing up in the Mormon faith. He

kept his sexuality a secret from his mother, but one day he invited some

of his gay friends over, and because he never mentioned anything about

his mother and her beliefs, they thought that his mother was okay with

him being gay.

Black’s friends told his mother about their personal stories and their

struggles with their own families, and how hard it was for them when

they came out. She listened to everyone politely, and acknowledged

them. Then, after everyone left, she pulled Black aside and asked him if

the boy he had been hanging out with was his boyfriend.

Black believes that, because his mother had listened to his friends’

struggles growing up gay, it changed her opinion and made her more

accepting of his sexuality. Black later took it upon himself to tell

everyone about the LGBT struggle, and he is hoping to change the

perception in people’s minds the way his mother’s perception changed.


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