(CNSNews.com) – The struggle for homosexual rights is like the struggle for civil rights, President Barack Obama said in a commencement speech at Barnard College on Monday, as he spoke of the Selma, Ala., civil rights marches of 1965 and the Stonewall riot that erupted in a gay bar in New York in 1969 as examples of what young people can do in America when they mobilize.
Barnard College is a women’s college in New York City. Obama encouraged the graduating students to make a difference and not be discouraged, citing several historical events experienced by previous generations.
“The trajectory of this country should give you hope,” the president told the students. “Previous generations should give you hope. What young generations have done before should give you hope. Young folks who marched and mobilized and stood up and sat in -- from Seneca Falls, to Selma, to Stonewall -- didn’t just do it for themselves, they did it for other people.”
“That’s how we achieved women’s rights,” he said. “That’s how we achieved voting rights. That’s how we achieved worker rights. That’s how we achieved gay rights. That’s how we made this union more perfect.”
The Seneca Falls Convention was one of the first and most influential women’s rights conventions, taking place in July 1848 in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The Selma marches to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965 were a key event in obtaining voting rights for African Americans.
The Stonewall riot occurred on June 27, 1969, when police raided a gay bar in New York called the Stonewall Inn. The bar was run by the mafia, according to The New York Times, which further reported that police raided the bar that night and the homosexual patrons began fighting, “tossing beer cans, bricks and anything else in reach at police officers, who responded by beating many of the protesters and arresting dozens of others.”
The event became a rallying point for the homosexual movement.
Obama also told the Barnard graduates, “And if you’re willing to do your part now, if you’re willing to reach up and close that gap between what America is and what America should be, I want you to know that I will be right there waiting.”
“If you are willing to fight for that dramatically simple idea of America: that no matter who you are or what you look like, no matter who you love, or what God you worship, you can still pursue your own happiness,” he said. “I will join you every step of the way.”