Amy Drayer ’99, Outstanding Recent Alumna
by Amy Drayer '99
Thank you to the Scripps community for honoring me today. Not just for the incredible honor itself, but for the opportunity to examine my life, what I could possibly say about it, and why I might be standing up here. I think I figured it out.
I want to thank my Scripps education for allowing me to take on the opportunity to steward Denver PrideFest and build a place to celebrate the LGBT community. Scripps prepared me for this work — and not just because working with the buildings and grounds department is suspiciously similar to working with the Parks and Rec department. It is because it took a gusty, empowered Scripps woman to jump into the position — I moved to Denver and began work on PrideFest in 2006, only six weeks before the festival. Going into it, I’d never singularly produced a major festival like it or done half of anything else in the job description. Never.
But I had the courage to apply for the job, the confidence to believe I could pull it off, and the fervent hope that it would all “work out.” And it did. Denver PrideFest has doubled in size and scope, and increased 50% in revenue over the past four years. Scripps helped cultivate in me the critical thinking skills, world understanding, respect for people and diversity, intellectual ingenuity, and drive for excellence to succeed in a brand new endeavor.
I am the first woman to direct Denver PrideFest. And I am changing my community for the better. For those who have never been, I’d like you to understand what a pride celebration is really about, tell you why I love my job, and why the struggle for LGBT equality is undeniably just.
At every single pride celebration, whether it is 1,000,000 in New York, 100,000 in Denver, or 1,000 in Mobile, Alabama, one group in the parade always draws the loudest cheer from the crowd. Always. Any city, any town. And it’s not the biggest float for the gay bar. It’s PFLAG. Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
It draws an overwhelming and desperate refrain — and, if you look at those around you, it also draws tears to the eyes of 9 out of 10. They are tears of grief, joy, and hope. They are the grateful tears of those who have had to face a universal, isolating choice day after day to tell a truth to parents and friends, to those we love and trust the most, a truth we fear will make you love us less. It might be someone else’s mom marching in that parade, but when she holds a sign that says, “I love my gay daughter,” it speaks to every single one of us. That moment and PFLAG are why I know that regardless of culture or spirituality, policies and doctrines that lead hundreds of thousands of people around the world to shed tears of isolation and grief are wrong. It is also why I am honored to say this is the work I do.
Yes, PrideFest is a really big party. One I think my community has earned. But it is also a sacred space for those who have been isolated and left behind by families, friends, churches, and cultures — a space to re-discover self-worth and community. Like a women’s college, it is a geography of empowerment.
Today our world spins quickly. Messages, movements, people, politics all evolve at the stroke of a keyboard, sometimes unintentionally, and are often valued for what they can produce instantly. The links between our beliefs, causes, and actions become increasingly complex and global. The critical struggles over race, gender, class, and important social justice causes come together in transformational ways on a macro scale.
This is a greater good — but let us not lose our focus on how women and our empowerment are critical to the success of these other causes. At Scripps, we cannot allow sexism to be buried in these connections and lose the focus that makes us powerful as graduates of a women’s college. The success of social justice as a concept demands sacred spaces to empower those who struggle with oppression. Whether it is a gathering of Native American two-spirit drummers, a union rally, or a women’s college, the ability to share your experience with others like you and tap into a larger community is fundamental, irreplaceable, and vulnerable only to our neglect.
The women’s community we have created here at Scripps must continue to be intentional and alive in our hearts and minds. If you cannot think back on your time here and recall a moment when you can feel with your heart the power of the women’s space created here, you have lost some of what you received at Scripps. If there has been a time when you have felt isolated or seen your path obscured, and you have not gone to the well of memory to tap into some of the power and clarity you received at Scripps, try it.
I have worked across issues in the progressive movement, and while I believe in all of them because of what I have been given by this community of women, and understand it comes from the intentional space we have created here, my heart still responds with a strong and clear thunder to the injustice of sexism, spiritual violence against us, and the disregard for the power of women’s voices.
It is by giving back to Scripps, through time and money and intention, that I seek to support our sacred women’s space as well as our alumnae and the change they create, and hopefully begin to pay back the deep debt I owe to the Scripps College community for all I received and continue to receive here. If you have not recently given of your time, money, or intention to Scripps, I ask you to re-enlist and do so again, starting today.
I firmly believe that investing in Scripps College is the most powerful thing I can do to create a society of strong, confident women who will change my world for the better. Members of the Class of 1980 at in Balch Auditorium.
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