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Advice to Viewpoint contributors

Lance David Gallop | Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On April 5, 2004, I came out of the closet publicly in a Viewpoint letter. It was not long afterwards that an editor asked me to be a regular contributor and I became, to my knowledge, the newspaper’s first openly gay opinion columnist.

On Jan. 13, 2010, The Observer published the infamous Viewpoint comic that — to put it politely — created a media Scheissesturm and which arguably stands in direct opposition to my message as a columnist.

The assistant managing editor has since resigned and the comic itself has been canceled. Both of these are appropriate, because people must take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. But it takes more than anger to heal communities and I write in the hope that a deeper correction can now begin.

I think being a young Viewpoint contributor — comic or otherwise — is an exercise in controlled hubris. You imagine yourself riding the wave of public opinion, controlling the conversation, and influencing important people. Whether you admit it or not, you crave attention, you crave controversy and you crave admiration. Most of the time you don’t get any reaction from anyone, and nothing frustrates you more.

All of these compromise you. Caught between your own vanity and a tight deadline you make mistakes. I once crushed a treasured friendship doing just that. Full of self-importance all your beautiful words are just emptiness in harmony, and you don’t even notice.

Only a few times have I been given the grace to see what simple words written without guile and with utter honesty can do. Those rare columns, I can honestly say, had a real influence for good that was beyond anything I imagined and beyond anything I was trying to achieve. It makes me shiver even now. I realize now that these were, without exception, the columns that I wrote for the sake of love.

This is what we — you, me, this paper, the entire University — are supposed to be. This is what The Observer can be again, if it and all the people who care for it strive to understand fundamentally why this happened and how they must be different to prevent it from happening again. For the sake of the good we can do.


Lance David Gallop
Class of 2005
Jan. 18