Published in The DePaulia: Monday, October 3, 2011
In Chicago, the celebration at Downtown Bar & Lounge at 440 N. State St., featured the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) with special guest Jim Messina, President Obama’s campaign manager for 2012, and a DePaul student by his side.
Marquell Smith, a DePaul student studying Business and Human Resources was a co-host/discharged veteran due to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and has been at the forefront of getting the policy repealed. He pats himself on the back for the night and also credits those supporters who not only supported him, but those who have had to serve in silence.
“Don’t just thank them for how they served or why they served, but for also serving in silence,” Smith said. “I showed up to a lot of town hall meetings and a lot of protests in the city, but what happened at that time was that there were people who were brave enough to stand up as well, which made this possible.”
Smith was given the privilege of introducing Messina to the crowd.
“What’s special about Jim Messina is that not only is he Obama’s campaign manager, but he’s also the person that when a lot of people were silent about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, he spoke up about repealing it,” Smith said.
At the event, Smith presented Messina with a military coin. Smith said that he knew it would mean a lot, but also joked that it’s all he could afford because he’s still a broke college student.
Messina, most recently the Deputy Chief of Staff to President Obama and graduate of the University of Montana, walked on stage to a silent room.
“This is a big F-ing deal,” Messina said. The crowd laughed.
“So many of you in the room worked very hard for this for a very long time, and it’s a reminder that we can still do big things,” Messina said. “We can dream whatever we want, and we can go get it done.”
Messina said that he has the pen that President Obama used to sign the repeal hanging on his wall. “I heard the President say that we’re going to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and we’re going to do it in a way that works,” Messina said.
“In the end, when the President signed that bill and slammed his hand down on the desk and said this law is gone forever, it showed all of us that we can do great thing,” Messina said. “We aren’t a country that says ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ We are a country that says ‘out of many we are one.’”
The repeal is not only important to today’s military, it affects several generations of servicemen and women. Veronica Hernandez, another co-host/discharged veteran due to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, said that her nephew is graduating from basic military training. “I am a very proud aunt and very proud veteran knowing that he has the ability to serve freely among those serving with him.”
Filled with civilian and veteran supporters, some regular attendees of the Downtown Bar & Lounge were surprised at how many people came out to celebrate. Christopher Schoop, a patron of Downtown Bar & Lounge, said that he visits the bar at least once a week and he rarely sees it so packed. Celebrations in Chicago and across the country made Sept. 20 a day to remember.