Students filed into Potter Hall on Wednesday looking to hear from a voice that signifies acceptance, personifies hurt and is a beacon of hope for those who have shared her experiences.
The Campus Activities Board sponsored the event last Wednesday, along with a showing of the Laramie Project on Tuesday. Janell Banks, president of CAB said that the even cost approximately $9,000.
Judy Shepard took the stage and delivered a message that told a familiar story, promoted acceptance and issued a call to arms.
â€œShe said things that our campus needed to hear,â€ said Abi Pontius, Western senior.
Western junior and member of Pride Alliance Brad Dixon agreed with Pontius.
â€œHearing words of wisdom from Judy Shepard was uplifting and felt like a breath of fresh air,â€ Dixon said.
Shepard started her presentation with a video depicting her son, Matthew Shepardâ€™s, death and the death of James Byrd Jr. Both men were victims of hate crimes.
Little of stature and soft of voice, the blonde woman started out her speech with some information about herself and a joke.
â€œWith my reluctant membership [to AARP] came my reading glasses,â€ Shepard said.
She also pulled out a little paper fan and said that she was having personal summers and that the fan was with her at all times to help her through the hot times.
Though her message had a heavy baseline that stemmed from her own sonâ€™s brutal murder in 1998, the fingers she pointed were not to the â€œhaters,â€ as Shepard called them, but rather to all in the audience.
â€œIf donâ€™t tell your stories, if you donâ€™t share your life with your friends and loved ones, if you donâ€™t help them vote for the right people then they donâ€™t know how to help you,â€ Shepard said.
She said that the GLBT community is responsible for their progress. Being complacent and waiting for someone else to take care of the issues and problems that the community faces is not acceptable.
â€œYou have to tell them what your life is like,â€ Shepard said.
She also stated that all students should make a difference by contacting their government representatives and letting them know what the needs of the GLBT community are.
Though her voice was monotone and quiet, she made her point about getting involved in the fight for civil rights and liberties for all, especially the GLBT community.
CAB President Janell Banks hopes that Shepardâ€™s message lit a fire under the GLBT community at Western, as well as the allies.
â€œI think she created an air for allies,â€ Banks said. â€œPeople are joining the Pride Alliance Facebook group as allies. Students now realize the importance of allies for the GLBT community.â€
Shepard spoke about the use of allies for the GLBT community.
â€œWe know that by sheer numbers the GLBT community cannot make these changes alone,â€ Shepard said. â€œWhich is why allies are so very, very important.â€
She also spoke of allies and the GLBT community being afraid to speak out about the civil liberties and rights that are denied to the GLBT community.
The fears she spoke of stemmed from fear of rejection, physical harm and discrimination. Shepard also spoke about same-sex marriage. She is a strong advocate for same-sex marriage and breaking down the ignorant reasons that are against same-sex marriages.
She also spoke about hate language and how the gay community isnâ€™t protected under law against hate language. Banks felt that Shepardâ€™s message might have given the GLBT community at Western a voice.
â€œI think the GLBT community is shy,â€ Banks said. â€œShe gave it a voice. We can be open about our lifestyles like everyone else.â€
Shepard made suggestions for Western to be more GLBT-friendly.
â€œItâ€™s up to the students to make the difference, write letters to the administrators,â€ Shepard said.
Paul Shang, dean of student development, was pleased with Shepardâ€™s message.
â€œIt was thought provoking with experience and emotions which makes it real and able to connect,â€ Shang said. â€œIt was not just intellectual.â€
Shepard issued a message to all students in the audience.
â€œYou just need to be who you are; you all need to be who you are. Donâ€™t hold back for any reason,â€ Shepard said. â€œYou need to respect yourself enough, and respect your friends and family enough to tell them the truth, tell them your stories.â€