I just got back from Philadelphia and meeting John Amaechi. What an impressive man, and I'm not talking about his physical stature, all 6'9" of that. John is a former Penn State and NBA star and he recently came out. This has sparked a media fascination since he's the first NBA player to ever come out as gay. Now he's on a national book tour. A bunch of us Penn Staters met at the Barnes & Noble in Rittenhouse Square to meet him and go for coffee afterwards.
About fifteen of us from a Penn State honor society which John also belongs to sat with him for at least two hours and discussed all sorts of issues. This was after John had spent at least 90 minutes patiently answering questions and signing books. He's gracious, generous, smart and comes up with the best answers of any interviewee I've seen in a long while. Of course I watch a lot of politicians answering questions so maybe part of that is the breath of fresh air a non candidate brings. Still, watching him on CNN recently I was incredibly impressed with how he answered the questions put forth.
This afternoon he answered everything from the difference between being Black and gay in Britain and here (John was born here but raised in England), to his charity, to how old he was when he knew he was gay (9), to life in the NBA as a gay man. There were also questions about Tim Hardaway, Ann Coulter and Rene Portland. Someone even asked him to define gaydar for him and he did a fantastic job responding.
Over coffee afterwards he said almost every stop has someone who attends just to harass him about his sexuality. I suppose that doesn't surprise me, especially after the poison emitted from the depths of Ms. Coultergeist last week but it must get grinding after a while. He handles everything with such grace I'm amazed. The group of (mostly) young Penn Staters was very encouraging to me. This was a very impressive, dynamic bunch of people, all high acheivers. As I sat there it occurred to me that not one of them would have qualified for the hat society in my day. We were strictly a group of senior (white) men. I've never been so proud of having worked for diversity as I was watching this group this afternoon. This is what we strive to achieve, this is what it's all about. Granted we aren't anywhere near our destination but it's significant progress.