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.