Obama Makes Surprise Appearance to Kick Off Gay Games
President Obama made a surprise video appearance at the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland on Saturday. Joining Greg Louganis, Lance Bass, the Pointer Sisters, and Broadway's Andrea McArdle and Alex Newell in celebrating the event, Obama said, "Since 1982 the Gay Games have given lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender athletes and supporters around the world a chance to come together to compete, celebrate, and inspire others."
President Obama, who is vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, noted how the country has changed since the games began in 1982. "We've also seen America change in that time, even since 2006, when the games were last held in the United States in my hometown of Chicago. We've come a long way in our commitment to the equal rights of LGBT people here and around the world," he said.
As international crises continue to dominate the world stage, the president took a break from his vacation and busy golf schedule to record the message for the Gay Games, boasting about his accomplishments on behalf of the LGBT movement since becoming president. "I'm proud of my administration's record and of the citizens who've helped push for justice."
The president had a special message for those living in countries that persecute LGBT individuals, explaining what he believes to be the "very idea" of America. "You should know that the United States stands with you and for your human rights, just as our athletes stand with you on the field at these games," he said. "After all, the very idea of America is that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, or who you love, you can make it if you try. That's who we are. That's who we should continually strive to be. "
Obama wished the athletes well. "We're also a country that loves competition, so let's get these games underway. Good luck to the athletes, have a great time in Cleveland and Akron, and go, Team U.S. A.!"
"The Gay Games is thrilled to have President Obama take his time to show his commitment to the Games' mission of inclusion, participation and personal best," said Hollie Ksiezyk, co-chair of the 2014 Gay Games.
Fellow co-chair Steve Sokany agreed. "It was a special moment that no one in the arena will forget and a great way to kick off the exciting Games week," he said.
Journalist Connie Schultz, wife of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, tweeted about how deeply moved she and Sen. Brown were by the opening ceremony:
Approximately 8,000 athletes are expected to participate in 36 events over the next week.
Watch the video of Obama on the next page.