Olympic champion Greg Louganis keynotes Pride Breakfast
It was an outdoor pool. There was rain, and gale-force winds were blowing. Who stands on a platform 10 meters high on a day like that to practice complex dives?
Greg Louganis was the only one in the pool that day. He kept diving, part of his training routine to hit the equivalent of 700 judges’ points before he would stop.
Louganis went on to win five Olympic gold medals, five world championships and 47 national championships in diving. Thus, the theme of his presentation at the 2016 Pride Breakfast at the University of Missouri-Kansas City: “Get in the Pool.” It was a message of determination to engage and participate rather than stand safely on the sidelines.
“Get in the pool. That’s what it takes. Don’t let anyone or anything deter you from getting in that pool, whatever pool that is,” he said.
Since 2008, the UMKC Pride Breakfast has raised funds to support LGBTQIA students at UMKC. This event is also designed to demonstrate the university’s support of, and commitment to, LGBTQIA students. Proceeds benefit all scholarships established specifically for LGBTQIA students, including the Pride Empowerment Fund, which provides emergency assistance to students who are experiencing financial difficulty due to loss of family support.
Louganis followed up his diving career by writing an autobiography, “Breaking the Surface,” in which he came out as a gay man and publicly revealed his HIV-positive status. He concluded his presentation by quoting from a letter he would have written to his troubled and struggling 16-year-old self:
“Life is going to get better. The darkness and grays you are living in will disappear … You are worth more than you know.”
Daniel Parnell was one of three LGBT students to offer a personal perspective at the breakfast. He said he was grateful that UMKC has given him opportunities to lead, learn and explore.
“I have learned that I don’t have to be mundane and ordinary. I can be extraordinary. I can be me,” Parnell said. “Thank you for your support.”
Event Chair Mike Sigler delivered an emotional address in which he explained his involvement by remembering the pain of growing up gay in a very different era, when openness was all but impossible.
“Our sponsors are sending a strong public message to these students: That you are not alone,” Sigler said. He announced that the breakfast had raised a preliminary net amount of $112,000. He compared that to the first six Pride Breakfast events, which in total raised just $88,000. The 2015 Pride Breakfast raised $92,000.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James opened the program by thanking the more than 800 attendees.
“It’s nice to see so many people here doing what needs to be done,” James said, referring to the need to publicly display support for people who are victims of discrimination.
“Everyone who has felt the cold stare of discrimination has a special responsibility” to stand up to it, the mayor added.
UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton echoed that theme in his remarks.
“It makes our hearts swell to see you here to support our LGBTQIA students,” Morton said. “UMKC is in the forefront our peers in our support of our LGBT community.” He offered a special thank you to Mary Kay McPhee and Bill Pfeiffer, longtime generous supporters of UMKC overall as well as of the university’s LGBT programming.
City Council member Jolie Justus, a UMKC alumna and chair of the Chancellor’s LGBT Council, offered a special message to the more than 100 students in attendance.
“This event is for you and about you,” Justus said. “I want you to know how fortunate you are to be at UMKC and to have Chancellor Morton and his leadership team by your side.”