The following is a transcribed version of the winning speech delivered during the Rotary International Four-Way Speech Competition on Dec. 8 by Staples senior Zack Slater.
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell:" It is a policy that has caused almost 14,000 members of our Army to be discharged. It is a policy that has caused our government hundreds of millions of dollars to enforce. And it is a policy that has rid our Army of gay, lesbian and bisexual service members. I've determined that this policy must be abandoned and have done so by asking myself: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Is it beneficial to all concerned? And does it build goodwill and other friendships?
First, is it the truth? Some of our military and political leaders claim that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" creates cohesion within the troops. They claim that sexual orientation ambiguity creates no distractions while fighting for our country. And they claim that homosexuals have no place in the Army. However, those serving happen to disagree. A study released last week by the Pentagon reports that 70 percent of those currently serving in the military are comfortable with gay, lesbian and bisexual peers, and may I add, open to gay, lesbian and bisexual peers.
American civilians also agree. A majority, also 70 percent, believe that gay people should be allowed to serve openly in the military. This is the truth. And being gay or bisexual is no longer seen as taboo by most of our country. And allowing them to serve will accurately represent the social climate of our country at this time: A climate that is not recognized by some of our military and political leaders, which is why they must know the truth and why "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" must be repealed.
Second, is it fair to all concerned? "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is not fair to those brave enough to risk their lives for our country. If discovered to be gay, a serviceman or woman is immediately discharged. And any gay person interested in and enthusiastic about defending the Constitution is turned away by military recruitment offices around the United States. According to the Pentagon, almost 75 percent of young Americans are unqualified to serve. This is because of growing drug use, poor law abiding, poor education and obesity. Yet, a physically fit, law-abiding, well-educated and enthusiastic gay person is not allowed to serve. They are denied.
Why should someone, just because of their sexuality, be turned away from defending the Constitution, especially when there are only so many people qualified to fight? This is why the policy is unfair and why "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" must be abandoned.
Third, is it beneficial to all concerned? "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is disadvantageous to Americans and the military. Expelling someone because of their sexuality simply makes us less strong. It is one less person keeping us safe: Safe from an enemy, safe from terror, safe from corruption and safe from evil. There are an estimated 66,000 closeted gay members of the service. Imagine if all of them, all 66,000 of them, were to be outed and discharged? That's 66,000 less people keeping us safe. By repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," more gay people would feel comfortable serving in the Army, therefore, more people keeping us Americans safe and defending the Constitution. It would be beneficial to all, the Americans and the military, if "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" were to be revoked.
Fourth, does it build goodwill and other friendships? "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" limits goodwill and other friendships because it is a policy that is not in touch with the times. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network reports that a majority of those who have served in 21st-century wars do not care if someone is gay or straight and do not find any connection between job performance and sexuality or friendship and sexuality. There is also no scientific evidence that claims that unit cohesion will negatively be affected if someone were to serve openly in the Army. And there actually is evidence that if gays were allowed to serve openly, it would create cohesion. This is because it is now 2010, and it's OK to gay, bisexual or lesbian.
If gay service members were allowed to be themselves that would, in fact, create true cohesion and true friendship among the troops. Therefore, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" must be repealed.
By using the Rotary Four-Way Test, I've come to the conclusion that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is not the truth. It is not fair. It is not beneficial. It does not build goodwill and other friendships. This is why is must be repealed and why it must be repealed now.
A majority of servicemen and women disagree with this, as do many American civilians. This is why those who also agree that this policy does not pass the Rotary Four-Way Test must call their senators today and let them know that they can repeal this policy in the next few weeks. And let them know "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is not fair, is not beneficial, it does not build goodwill and other friendships, and most of all, it is not the truth. Thank you.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.