Former Army Officer Keynotes Day of Unity

Lt. Dan Choi, a former U.S. Army infantry officer, combat veteran and gay rights activist, encouraged students to fight for equality in his keynote address at Montclair State’s second annual Day of Unity.

“His courage to be true to himself despite great odds is a lesson for all of us,” said Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Karen L. Pennington, who invited Choi because of his fight against the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

After Choi came out on The Rachel Maddow Show in 2009, the Army discharged him, despite the fact that he speaks Arabic and was an asset to his unit. Choi’s protests led to several arrests—including one for handcuffing himself to the White House fence. He stressed the importance of activism in igniting social change.  

“It reminded us once again that we are part of a supportive, united community here at Montclair State University and that we have a voice and a responsibility to speak out against hate and injustice,” said Brian Edwards, program coordinator for the LGBT Center.

Veteran and junior Ferdinando Palumbo said, “He sacrificed a lot and really encouraged me to stand up for what’s right.”