On November 3, 2012, Lucilo Peña received the Kuchling Humanitarian Award from the Dallas Black Tie Dinner, annually the largest annual fundraising event in the City of Dallas. The following is the written text of his acceptance speech that evening before an audience of 3,300 guests.
Thank you to the Black Tie Dinner Board for this tremendous honor. The kind words spoken by friends and Lee, my wonderful partner of 30 years, are an amazing gift to me in many different ways, especially since all of them have done so much for the LGBT community. There are so many people in our community who are deserving of this recognition, so I am truly humbled.
I’d like to dedicate this award to my father, who gave of his time and money, beyond reason, standing up for the freedom and human rights of the Cuban people. He passed away 17 years ago, but he taught me by his example to volunteer, and I know he’d be proud if he were with us tonight.
Through my years of volunteering, one of the main lessons I’ve learned is that the LGBT civil rights movement is not just about us, but about society at large. The way society views us is a clear reflection of its values regarding, fairness, tolerance, and equality.
While serving on various boards and committees for the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that will always be a priority for me,we started reaching out to our straight allies and organized several straight/gay outreach events. I took what I learned through those experiences at HRC and used it to develop straight allies in various cultural and arts institutions and on other boards where I currently serve.
One of the most effective techniques for reaching out is simply to be out. It also happens to be the most transformative and positive thing any LGBT person can do for themselves and for the LGBT community. As a reflection of that outreach and openness, it’s always been important for Lee and me to see the words “gay and lesbian” not in a political or sexual context, but rather associated with positive, philanthropic endeavors in society. So, when we gave our first gift to the Dallas Museum of Art, we requested that the acknowledgement list our names, followed by “The Gay & Lesbian Fund for Dallas,” an intelligent, strategic organization with which we’ve partnered many times—and I encourage all of you to do the same by participating in their bundling programs.
To promote the positive aspects of our community, I’ve worked to create sponsorships and events for the DMA , the AT&T Performing Arts Center, 2x2 for Aids and Art, and other groups. I remain focused on bringing more visibility to our community and building stronger bridges to our straight allies. Achieving our equal rights has nothing to do with right or left or gay or straight, but everything to do with right and wrong. It’s also made possible by reaching out to potential allies and leading by example.
Our cause is now mainstream and our allies are many. So, be out, be proud, and reach out to our allies. The truth and history are clearly on our side.