A video of Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns has gone viral on YouTube due to his impassioned speech during a public meeting. After talking about the recent suicides around the country involving bullying and being gay, Burns also shared his personal experience as a teenager. Burns, who is openly gay according to the Associated Press, tells teens “it gets better” despite the people around you who may not support you. Burns was given a standing ovation after he finished. You can see the video here on Joel Burns’ YouTube channel. Burns listed his contact information for any teens that may need help or resources regarding bullying.
Joel Burns became a personal story that was timely as it pointed out a need for our society to change. Throughout the history of American politics, our leaders have used their speeches to address current issues and have put forth messages of hope, overcoming struggle, and perseverance. Here are some of the best examples.
“I Have a Dream”
On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., organized a march on Washington D.C. to confront the Federal government about civil rights for African Americans. His movement had grown out of violence in the 1950s that included assassinations, beatings, and murders of black Americans all over the country.
King was a great orator whose “I Have a Dream” speech told of the struggles, hopes, and dreams of African Americans as he had hopes and dreams for his own family. Although King was never a true politician in that he didn’t hold public office, he was the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a national figurehead.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
After the bloody battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War, Lincoln needed to address the struggle for America to be whole. In saying that the men who died at Gettysburg have hallowed the ground, it was the duty of the living that their sacrifice not be in vain.
In the end it was this perseverance that saved the Union despite costing untold lives and suffering. The Gettysburg Address was short, simple, yet embodied what the Civil War was about-men fighting for what they believed in at all costs.
2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address
At the Democratic National Convention in 2004, then-Senator Barack Obama gave a rousing speech about American standing at a crossroads. Having invoked the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he explained his own background and how the hard work and dedication of his forebears has turned into the hopes and dreams for Obama’s own two daughters.
Obama, like Lincoln and King before him, stressed the need for national unity in a time of crisis and war. Obama also spoke of his pending health care initiative and a need for better jobs and job security for all Americans who struggle to keep America great.
The Meaning of Burns’ Speech
The most important thing for me regarding Burns’ speech was his time addressing the parents. As a parent of two kids I know that love and acceptance of children begins at home. Accepting your kids for who they are is half the battle. Teaching your children tolerance, and not violence, towards those who are different is the way to prevent bullying in the first place.
Schools aren’t the answer to stopping violence against teenagers. It all starts at home with parents who set the example. Schools can provide resources to help in regards to bullying, yes, but in the end it all comes down to how we teach our children at home.
Associated Press, “Gay councilman’s plea to bullied teens goes viral”, AP.org.
YouTube, “Joel Burns tells gay teens ‘it gets better'”, YouTube.com.
U.S. Constitution Online, “The I Have a Dream Speech”, USConstitution.net.
Library of Congress, “Gettysburg Address-“Nicolay Copy”-Transcription”, myLOC.gov.
American Rhetoric, “Barack Obama-2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address”, AmericanRhetoric.com.