Today is a day for celebration — to stop and reflect on the sacrifice and activism of Harvey Milk on his birthday rather than on the day he was taken from this earth by bullets fired from the gun of fellow San Francisco Supervisor Dan White in 1978. Milk was an ordinary man with a drive that lead to an extraordinary life that blazed a trail for LGBT rights by becoming the first openly gay public official.

To think about how far we still have to go it’s 2012 and we still have pols clinging to the closet out of fear, but hundreds are now out and proud and serving in elected office – check them out at the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute web site.

The Harvey Milk Foundation celebrates the third annual Harvey Milk Day, marked with events around the globe commemorating the man’s legacy. You can see some of the goings-on at the Official Harvey Milk Day website:

Kicking off the festivities last week in in Sacramento, the Harvey Milk Foundation joined together with the California Legislative LGBT Caucus and Equality California (EQCA) to host a breakthrough conversation on the implementation and benefits of Senate Bill (SB) 48.  Celebrations continue today in San Diego with the dedication of Harvey Milk Street.

3rd Official Harvey Milk Day Statement, May 22, 2012 by Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk, and Founder and President of the Harvey Milk Foundation:

Today my uncle would have been 82 years old, however, he gave us his life 32 years ago knowing that the first of any civil rights movement, who so clearly and loudly proclaim their right to equality, most often meets a violent and sudden end.

I am frequently asked if I am deeply saddened that my uncle Harvey did not get to see all those elected officials who would come to stand on his shoulders, or all the places where the light of equality burns brighter than the darkness of antiquated prejudice, and I have long replied that he did see those open and proud candidates running for office and winning, and he did see those cities and states and nations that would etch equality into both their laws and their societal values, for he could not have given his life without seeing and visualizing that dream, for he would leave us with a compass of hope, hope born of bullets, not smashing into his brain, but smashing our masks and our fear of authenticity.

82 years ago Harvey came into this world with all the promise and potential that my grandparents Minnie and Bill could have imagined, and he also came into a world that soon would be rocked by a global war driven at its very core by fear, division, and separation.  My uncle was profoundly affected by the capacity of communities and nations to turn on each other when the narrative of lies and the myths of prejudice were fed around the globe during WWII. He also was able to see at a young age, visible through his college writing, that we could learn through collaboration, understanding and inclusiveness that we are not weakened by our differences, in fact, that our potential is only reached when the full diversity of all those that make up our communities is celebrated. And today it is this very celebration of our diversity that Harvey had dreamed, the celebration of all of us, not in-spite of our difference, but because of our differences.

Today is the celebration not of a people or community or nation being better than another, but a celebration of the knowledge that we are so much less when we do not embrace, without qualification, all members of our unique and varied humanity. ??My uncle’s legacy has many monuments, all those openly LGBT elected officials, all those who live an authentic and open life, all those strong allies like our President in the United States that fight to keep us embraced, the hope givers who help to full fill our potential of equality.

President Obama said it best, “Harvey gave us hope, All of us, Hope unashamed, Hope unafraid” My uncle was very much with us in spirit as we watched the President and then Speaker Pelosi sign the Matthew Shepard Act and then the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  And we were all standing on his shoulders  just last week when the President, true to his word in staying on the side of  justice, basic dignity and human rights as he endorsed Marriage Equality, becoming the first sitting US President to make that courageous move.

These are the tangible monuments to Harvey’s legacy that have the impact to effect change, real societal change. Today we are here are voicing the hope of a global community set on the path of inclusion – there is no more fitting tribute to my uncles dream, a dream that remains alive in each of us. Today is a day of recognition and appreciation of our own authenticity and that of others, a day to collaborate and reach out to those who still struggle with either self-acceptance or societal acceptance.

Harvey Milk day is a reminder to put hate and separation in their place, a place of learning of wrongs that have been righted and reminders not to repeat them, a day to create the dream and vision of what is possible, even in the all too many places around the world where it is still so hard to visualize that dream, as it was when my uncle spoke out over 38 years ago in the US.

I and the Milk family and Harvey Milk Foundation thank all of you who are working collaboratively today, in dreaming what my uncle dreamed, for seeing, visualizing and making great efforts to co-create our collective full potential.  We are are thankful in the celebration of my uncles legacy of hope,  hope that tomorrow will be more inclusive then today and that inclusivity is without exception and without qualification.  As my uncle said, we gotta give ‘em hope!

LGBT activist and close friend of Milk, Cleve Jones, has a wonderful tribute — a collection of photos and notes — about him up on Jones’s Facebook page. It’s worth checking out, as well as the documentary the Times of Harvey Milk (1984), which shows the activist and politician — alive and vital — taking risks for the oppressed at a time when it was dangerous to do so if you were LGBT.