(Russell delivered these remarks when he accepted the ACLU-WA’s Youth Activist Award for 2012 at the Bill of Rights Celebration Dinner on Nov. 10.)
Good evening ladies and gentlemen! I'm honored to be here with you, to celebrate civil liberties, an attribute our country is known very well by the rest of the world.
Before I start, I would like to take a moment to extend my sincere congratulations to Diane Narasaki and Major Margaret Witt. It's people like you that make our country great—standing up in what you believe in and standing up for what's right! I'd like you to know that you both have made significant impact for the better.
It is a great pleasure for me to receive this years' Youth Activist Award. For those of you who don't know me or my background and my involvement with the ACLU, I have had a long, tedious and troublesome school career for six years. Was it academics? No, that was the easy part. I had been bullied and harassed by several of my peers due to my perceived sexual orientation and due to my race. After trying to work with school officials to no significant avail, my parents became frustrated. We've attended community action meetings, sat in school board forums. After hearing about my situation, the ACLU made it explicitly clear that schools have a duty to provide a flourishing academic environment, free of threats, intimidation or harassment. I am hopeful that schools nationwide are taking consideration of that message.
It is my hope that school becomes a pleasant, dynamic place of academia and positive peer interaction, not an environment of distraction, adversity and uncertainty. Furthermore, it is my hope that in all situations in life—not just in a school environment—people are no longer ridiculed or discriminated against due to their race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability. It is because of the ACLU, because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and most importantly, because of our great, unparalleled supreme law of the land—the Constitution of the United States—that ensures a civil, coexisting society.
I'd like to thank all of the wonderful people I've worked with through all these years regarding my case sponsored by the ACLU: Sarah Dunne, the legal director; Rose Spidell, a former staff attorney. I extend my thanks to the Northwest Justice Project in Aberdeen, in particular, Sarah Glorian and Felix Gavi Luna of the Peterson-Wampold-Rosato-Luna-Knopp law firm. Finally, I'd like to thank the very potent team at a law firm here in Seattle—Hillis, Clark, Martin and Peterson. Michael Scott, Alexander Wu, and Joseph Sakay. You all were very supportive of me, worked very tirelessly and helped make an impact for the better.
I'd also like to take the time thank my parents and family for sticking by me. I couldn't have done it without you all.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen.