While this was a pretty lousy year for progressive politics in terms of election results, it was in many ways a great year for progressive achievements, from the passage of the Affordable Care Act to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Along the way, many individuals and groups distinguished themselves through their words and deeds. The Texas Progressive Alliance, as it has done since 2006, recognizes these people and their accomplishments through its annual Texan of the Year selection. This year, the TPA has named Fort Worth City Council Member Joel Burns for this honor. From our press release:
Burns, Fort Worth’s District 9 City Councilman, received international attention and acclaim in October after delivering a speech at a Forth Worth City Council meeting concerning suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth as part of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign.
In his speech, Burns spoke eloquently and emotionally about his experiences as a teen facing bullying in Crowley because of his sexual orientation. Burns’ speech, which became an internet sensation, resulted in interviews on CNN, NPR’s All Things Considered, an in-studio interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, and an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“Joel Burns’ speech did more to raise awareness of the difficulties LGBT youth in Texas face on a daily basis perhaps more than anything else this year,” said Vince Leibowitz, Chair of the Texas Progressive Alliance. “His courageous action in delivering this speech was worthy of recognition, and progressives everywhere should salute him,” Leibowitz continued.
Here’s the video, in case you haven’t seen it:
Joel Burns, we in the TPA salute you.
The TPA also honors Administrator for Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Texas DREAMers as Honorable Mentions.
Armendariz was recognized for cracking down on polluters in Texas in spite of immense political pressure from state leaders and corporations. Armendariz issued the first Emergency Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order against a natural gas operator in Parker County which caused high levels of methane in private water wells.
The Texas DREAMers–students and activists involved in supporting the DREAM Act through peaceful protest and other means, were recognized for their work in Texas which has included everything from organizing phone banks to call and persuade U.S. Senators, to staging sit-ins and demonstrations at the offices of U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. The group has even staged hunger strikes in support of its efforts.
Armendariz and the EPA are of course also engaged in a huge struggle against basically the entire state government to actually enforce the laws that protect us from all kinds of pollution. As for the DREAMers, I must confess that I’m completely unable to comprehend why we wouldn’t welcome them with open arms. (For those of you who are about to say something about “getting in line”, please note that the line in question is now up to 22 years long. You think maybe we ought to do something about that?) We in the TPA stand with them in their fight to make our state and our country a better place. Our thanks and our congratulations to all our honorees.