The Rev. George B. Walker Embraces the Authentic

Meredith Heagney
Law School Office of Communications
October 16, 2012

The Rev. George B. Walker Jr. is a man of many identities. He is, as his title suggests, a minister. He’s also black. He’s gay, and he and his spouse live in Washington, D.C. He serves on President Obama’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. And he’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute, a political action committee that supports LBGT candidates. He’s also a son, a world traveler, and a bit of a comedian.

Walker shared a message with Law School students in a Sept. 28 lunchtime talk that he shares with the gay politicians he works with: You must be whoever you really are. The things that make you different, or give you minority status, should not be hidden, but rather “points of pride.”

“They are part of who you are. They’re in your DNA,” Walker said to a full room of students, many of them members of the Black Law Students Association and/or OutLaw, the LGBT group at the Law School. Those groups and the Office of the Dean of Students sponsored Walker’s talk.

“They’re not negative. They bring out your authentic self.”

Walker pointed out that when a candidate stays closeted about his or her sexuality, someone always knows the truth. And then, he asked, what message does that send about the candidate? “If you lie about that, you’re probably going to lie about something else.”

He told the students to surround themselves with “mirrors,” his term for friends and acquaintances willing to tell you who you really are even when you might lose sight of that. Seek out those who display honesty and integrity, even if you don’t agree with their politics, he said.

“Listen attentively to someone else’s story,” he said. “It’s so important to learn to stand up for someone other than yourself.”

Walker said he was optimistic for the future when he looked at the class of law students.

“I’m excited about the diversity. I’m excited about your youth,” he said. Then, he posed a challenge to the students, encouraging them all to turn the privilege of attending the Law School into a career that makes the entire country better.

“For America to be as great as it’s going to be, it needs that and requires that of you,” Walker said.

Becca Horwitz, ’13, co-chair of OutLaw, said she found Walker “incredibly inspirational.”

“One of themes that I noticed evolve while I was helping with 1L Orientation this fall is niceness and integrity. Reverend Walker talked not just about being nice and having integrity, but the how of living your life with openness and honesty,” she said.

“I think all students were very engaged -- Reverend Walker presents important ideas with humor and fun -- making this a wonderful start to the year.”

The speech was special for Walker too, he said. It meant a lot for him to deliver a talk in Room V, President Obama’s favorite place to teach when he was a Senior Lecturer and a Lecturer in Law at the Law School.