On October 15, 2009, Steve Atkinson 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 3,000 guests.
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The words that were spoken by my dear friends and my handsome husband on that video are quite a gift on this night that is so very special to me. Those of you who know me well – and as was referenced on the video – will be happy to hear that my speech, indeed, will not be long. And there are some bets about that in this room. Do you believe that? And I want to report one who wins.
I am so deeply honored to stand before you and to join the list of previous recipients of the Kuchling Award. That list includes some of my personal heroes and many that I'm lucky enough to call my friends.
And I ask you to please look at that list of names in your programs tonight, and always remember and honor those remarkable men and women – truly remarkable – and what they have done to help others and to make our world a better place for all of us.
I want to thank the Black Tie Dinner board for this incredible honor and for your work to make this night so spectacular.
I really feel like I'm one of the most fortunate people in the world. And I feel that largely because of the people that I want to thank tonight. I just can't even tell you how proud I am, and how much I've always been proud, to be a part of this wonderful community, represented by those of you here in this room.
And in all honesty, after my life partner, my friends and my family, there is nothing in the world that is more important to me than our GL BT community.
What we have in this community is incredibly precious. We are strong. We are effective in our work. We have amazing organizations such as the beneficiaries of tonight's dinner.
But way more powerful than all that, we have a community that loves and cares for its own. And I am so fortunate to experience that every day of my life.
It has been, and it continues to be, one of the greatest joys of my life to serve as a volunteer and as a leader in this community that I love so very much.
I want to thank those of you who have worked beside me on boards and committees and projects and in raising funds – and all those great things that we have gotten to do. And I must mention my deep affection for HRC, Equality Texas, DGLA and Black Tie Dinner – and the amazing individuals in those organizations with whom I have had the privilege of working – and still get to with some of you.
As so many of you know, serving this community has the immense personal benefit of letting one build amazing friendships along the way, and many of my best friends are those I became close to through my work in this community. I wish time would allow me to call out so many of you by name and thank you. I can't quite do that tonight, but you know who you are , and so many of you are here, and I love each one of you very dearly. And I thank you for your constant support of my work, and for making me look so good sometimes, because I couldn't do it alone.
I'm really proud of the work I've done – I am – but I am always mindful that the activism accomplishments that I've been a part of – the work – everything that has happened – that I've been blessed to be a part of – is a group effort. It always is and it always has to be for us to succeed.
I am fortunate to have a family who has always loved me unconditionally, and supported me at every turn. To them, some of them are here tonight, thank you.
Most importantly, I want to thank Ted Kincaid, who for 20 years has been the love of my life, my best friend, my greatest source of strength and inspiration, and the one who can always make me smile. Ted, thank you for your unwavering support of my volunteerism, even when it was, what I will admit, sometimes at an insane pace. Thank you for being so understanding of the endless meetings, the countless evenings and weekends away from home, and everything that has been a part of this amazing, incredible journey. I absolutely could not have done it without you, without your love and your support, and I love you more than words could ever express.
While our community’s accomplishments are far-reaching, much work remains to be done, and we must not stop until our lives are fully equal under the laws of our state and our nation.
Many of you know the joys of volunteering, and I believe with all my heart that we have the responsibility to give back, and to volunteer, and to help others, and to improve this world. And I challenge each of you to always be about that kind of good work – as so many of you have been and continue to be.
Let me conclude by sharing with you one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
From the bottom of my heart, thank you.