Gays’ and Veterans’ Rights Leader Kicks Off Heritage Month

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In 2009, Lt. Dan Choi, an Iraq veteran and a skilled Arabic speaker, was discharged from the U.S. Army for saying three words: “I am gay.”

Dan Choi

Choi, an Iraq veteran, is the first speaker in Dartmouth’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. (Photo courtesy of Dan Choi)

Choi will tell his story May 1 in the kickoff event of Dartmouth’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The month features dinners, performances, film screenings, and community conversations to talk about—and engage the Dartmouth community around—Asian-Pacific American culture, history, and identities.

Choi’s talk, free and open to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. in Moore Hall’s Filene Auditorium.

A graduate of the Army’s Scout Leaders Course and Air Assault School, Choi is a leading voice for gay and lesbian rights and for veterans’ issues. He was a face of the movement to repeal the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which ended in 2011. The policy allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military, but only if they did not reveal their sexual orientation—those who were openly gay or lesbian were barred from military service. Choi serves on the boards of Marriage Equality USA and the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

Choi says he is eager to talk with Dartmouth students.

“The young people cannot be discounted; they develop the future strategy,” says Choi. “I want to meet leaders who are going to take this movement forward.”

The Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) at Dartmouth is a student-led initiative, with guidance from Aeriel Anderson, assistant dean and adviser to Pan Asian students.

“We are thrilled to bring Dan to campus and hope his time on campus will inspire self-reflection on intersections of identity as well as speak to leadership and activism for social change,” says Anderson.

“Lt. Choi is a great example of someone who turned his own experiences as a queer Asian American in the military into an opportunity for political action,” says Huan He ’13, an intern with the Office of Pan Asian Student Advising. “My hope for APAHM is that during the month of May, the Pan Asian community at Dartmouth will have a platform to explore many issues that affect our community.”

Another speaker during APAHM is Jane Hyun, author of the book Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling. Hyun, the founder and president of the consulting group Hyun & Associates, will speak as part of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Science’s Portman Lecture Series on May 20.

The talk is supported by the Office of LGBTQIA Student Advising, and Choi is also a speaker for Pride Week.

“The literal overlap of Pride Week and APAHM beautifully underlines the diversity of identities, experiences, and politics within communities as well as the necessity of collaborative efforts to create social change,” says Reese Kelly, assistant dean and adviser to LGBTQIA students.

Choi’s talk is also supported by the Office of the President, Office of Pluralism and Leadership, Office of the Dean of the College, the Special Programs and Events Committee, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center, the Dartmouth Asian Pacific American Alumni Association, the Undergraduate Deans Office, Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, Dartmouth Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Alumni/ae Association, the Center for Gender and Student Engagement, and Student Health Promotion and Wellness.

For a complete schedule of APAHM events, visit the Office of Pan Asian Student Advising website.