When Jacob Rudolph gave an acceptance speech at an assembly this month for winning the class award for best actor, the New Jersey high school senior did something that many of the more than 300 students in the audience did not expect: He came out.
“Most of you see me every day. You see me acting the part of ‘straight’ Jacob, when I am in fact LGBT,” the courageous teen said. “Unlike millions of other LGBT teens who have had to act every day to avoid verbal harassment and physical violence, I’m not going to do it anymore.”
Rudolph continued: “It’s time to end the hate in our society and accept the people for who they are regardless of their sex, race, orientation, or whatever else may be holding back love and friendship. So take me, leave me or move me out of the way. Because I am what I am, and that’s how I’m going to act from now on.”
The crowd’s reaction? A loud, standing ovation—exactly what Rudolph deserved for his incredible speech.
Rudolph’s father posted the video to YouTube with the following message at the end that read in part:
The reaction of the students is testimony to the progress we’ve made in our society to respect everyone.
But we still have a long way to go. Jacob made his statement where he made it and when he made it to let other LGBT teens know they’re not alone and that sometime not too far, we hope, down the road, no kid will ever have to act as someone they’re not to avoid being bulled, harassed, or assaulted.