Tag Archives: don’t ask don’t tell

Hero of the Week: February 8, Kathleen Sebelius and the Dept. of Health and Human Services

8 Feb
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Newton, national attention centered on the issue of guns. One frequent sidebar, however, was mental illness. The NRA seized on this, insisting, ironically, on a national registry of the mentally ill. For a while it seemed that shrill voices and fear would capitalize on the existing stigma and further marginalize those with mental health issues, making care for the mentally ill even more challenging. Fortunately, calmer voices are prevailing.

In a wonderful editorial this week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlines the recent history of mental health care and what her agency intends to do to improve things. Like too many caring, common sense aspects of government, inclusive approaches to mental health started nearly 50 years ago and have been undermined by the Reaganite approach to strangling government programs. Sebelius intends to reverse that trend.

She rightly identified the main problems as stigma, early diagnosis and care, and well-funded and accessible programs. Building on the fundamentals already rolling out thanks to the Affordable Care Act, HHS will be working on new programs to ensure people get the care they need and encourage people  seek timely, meaningful help. Thank you, Madam Secretary, for taking this growing problem seriously and treating it with humanity and dignity.

Thanks to my friend Jennifer Carey for this week’s honorable mention. In another welcome move from the Obama administration, the Department of Defense has announced plans to begin implementing benefits for same-sex partners of military personnel. Sadly, because of DOMA, many of the more than 1100 benefits provided to heterosexual couples are blocked. With the dismantling of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, however, gay and lesbian military personnel can be open about their families and the government can provide some basic benefits for them. It is delightful to see another agency taking the mandate of the President’s second term seriously and moving forward — with or without Congress — to do the right thing for the American people.

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Number 3 Hero of the Year Award 2011: Lady Gaga

30 Dec

Number 3 Hero of 2011

In light of the shenanigans that so many people get up to when they get the least bit famous, it is a delight to be able to honor a celebrity who uses her voice, money, and spotlight to make the world a better place. Stephani Germanotta, better known to the world as Lady Gaga, has been a tireless force for good in 2011, bringing her in at #3 on this year’s Hero list.

Already known as a staunch ally of the LGBT community for her opposition to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Lady Gaga hit the ground running in 2011 with her amazing album and single Born This Way. She stuck to her principles commercially (a rare trait indeed) and broke an exclusive distribution contract with Target when the retail giant refused to stop its funding of anti-gay politicians. A vocal supporter of anti-bullying programs, she’s been a one-woman It Gets Better campaign. Following the tragic suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, she not only dedicated a concert to him and to all the victims of bullying, but she lobbied the White House for national anti-bullying programs. She’s also raised funds and awareness to fight AIDS.

It looks like she’ll be continuing the momentum in 2012, as her new Born This Way Foundation — dedicated to youth empowerment, bravery, and kindness — launches. Using her power for good pays off, too, as Forbes named her the most powerful celebrity of the year (beating out Oprah) and DoSomething.org put her at the top of their annual list of “Celebs Gone Good.”  Let’s hope more youth hear her message of personal value and more celebrities take her model of using fame for good to heart.

Flashback to 2010: Fittingly, last year’s #3 hero was Dan Savage and the It Gets Better campaign.

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