Obama Liked Conrad Honicker's Shoes

Conrad Honicker, the gay high-school activist we profiled in a cover story in April of last year, went to Washington, D.C., as part of a delegation of activists appealing for more support from the Obama administration.

Honicker was there representing the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which opposes harassment of sexual minorities in schools.

The 17-year-old rising senior at West High met the president and his wife in the White House on Monday. His parents, Cliff Honicker and Jackie Kittrell, no strangers to activism of several sorts, came along for support. They got to meet briefly with the Obamas privately, albeit briefly, for a photo opportunity.

“Hello, Mr. President,” Conrad Honicker said to Barack Obama himself. “Thank you for being a visible ally for teens like me.”

Obama didn’t respond directly, but took a good look at the young visitor and said, “Man, those are the coolest shoes that have ever been in the White House.”

Honicker was wearing, by his own description, “silver leather dress shoes with James Dean on the bottom.”

Honicker talked a bit more to Michelle Obama, who sounded warmly noncommittal, as a first lady should always be, and gave him a big hug. Kittrell says they bragged on Knox County’s institutional response to several local problems with bullying. “It didn’t feel rushed,” Kittrell says. “But it was over very quickly.”

The Honickers also attended another event in the East Room, and got to meet Obama senior advisors David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, as well as gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. Actress Jennifer Beals—who’s not a lesbian but has played one on TV—was also in the house. It’s unclear whether she spotted Conrad’s shoes.

© 2009 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 1

swanpond writes:

Hello Metropulse, Conrad's mom, Jackie, and Dad, Cliff, here!
We love the human interest story, and especially one reporting our President's favorable comments on our son's silver wingtips, but we wanted to clarify: President Obama was quite clear and articulate in his support for safe schools and anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. His remarks
to us, and to those gathered in the East Room, were encouraging and helpful. The fact that our family was invited to meet with the First Family on this occasion speaks volumes in itself.

We understand that to change how students, teachers, administrators, and parents view issues of sexual identity and orientation is a slow process of education, respectful dialogue, and personal awareness. Studies show that when
there exist clear enumerated policies against bullying and harassment in schools, teachers and principals find it much easier to educate students, and to react to and prevent harm
to all students. Knox County has such a policy, adopted in 2006. It works when the adults know how to enforce it. Conrad has seen it work at West High School over the three years he's been a student.

We asked the President to support the Safe Schools
Improvement Act, which would bring school districts nationwide up to Knox County standards. It would also add prevention resources, so that schools would be able to address problems before they happen---before the violent language is used and before the rocks are thrown---by teaching the skills of civility and conflict management
which students need to live successfully in a pluralistic society such as our wonderful United States of America.

Conrad is spending his summer in NYC as an intern for GLSEN. The shoes have been memorialized in photos on their blog: http://blog.glsen.org/2009/07/coolest...

Jackie Kittrell and Cliff Honicker

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