Saturday, June 17, 2017

Kudos to Nikos Giannopoulos

Giannopoulos, who teaches 11th and 12th graders at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket [Rhode Island], visited the White House with other teacher of the year winners in April.


“After a lengthy security process, we were welcomed into the Roosevelt Room where we each met Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Shortly thereafter, we walked into the Oval Office. The man seated at the desk read prepared remarks from a sheet of paper and made some comments about CEOs and which states he ‘loved,’ based on electoral votes that he had secured. He did not rise from his seat to present the national teacher of the year with her much-deserved award, nor did he allow her to speak.”

Giannopoulos wanted to speak to the president, but none of the teachers got the chance (though Trump did tell him that he was “very stylish” with his fan as the teachers gathered around the president, Giannopoulos told Yahoo). He had wanted to tell Trump that “queer lives matter and anti-LGBTQ policies have a body count.” Giannopoulos said he also wanted to tell the president how the LGBTQ community is hurt by “politicians callously attacking our right to love or merely exist.”

He said now when he thinks of the day he “will not remember the person seated at the desk.” Giannopoulos said he’ll remember the students he has taught and the other teachers with him that day, including one who presented Trump with letters from her refugee student, “pleading with him to hear their voices.”


He said he wore the pin “to represent my gratitude for the LGBTQ community that has taught me to be proud, bold, and empowered by my identity — even when circumstances make that difficult.” He brought the fan that day to “celebrate the joy and freedom of gender nonconformity.”

Giannopoulos carried a black lace fan that he unfurled alongside Trump at the Resolute desk in order to, as he put it in a Facebook post, “celebrate the joy and freedom of gender nonconformity.” Giannopoulos met Trump with a group of other teachers on April 26, but he only received a copy of his picture with the president this week.


“I walked into the Oval Office, I was probably like the fourth person to walk in,” Giannopoulos told Yahoo News in a Friday phone interview. “I kind of popped open my fan just to be kind of a little bit sassy, as I am prone to being.”

According to Giannpoulos, Trump immediately took notice of the fashion accessory.

“I started fanning myself and he complimented the fan actually, so that was his first sentence to me. It was basically, ‘Oh, I like the fan.’ And then he also told me that I was very stylish,” Giannopoulos said.


“I wore a rainbow pin to represent my gratitude for the LGBTQ community that has taught me to be proud, bold and empowered by my identity — even when circumstances make that difficult. I wore a blue jacket with a bold print and carried a black lace fan to celebrate the joy and freedom of gender nonconformity,” Giannopoulos wrote. “I wore an anchor necklace in honor of the state of Rhode Island, whose motto ‘Hope’ was inspired by Hebrews 6:19 — ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.’”


While Trump has expressed support for the gay community, since he took office in January, he has faced substantial criticism from LGBTQ rights advocates. Several officials appointed to his administration have been staunch opponents of LGBTQ rights and federal agencies have rolled back protections and programs designed to help the community. While President Barack Obama issued proclamations honoring Gay Pride month each June, Trump has not done so this month.


After Giannopoulos and the other teachers entered the Oval Office, they approached Trump for individual photos. Giannopoulos said he had his fan out and one of Trump’s “handlers” told him to “put that away.” He ignored the instruction and went up to the president.

“I was like, ‘Oh, do you mind if I use the fan?’ And he said, ‘Not at all.’ So, I went ahead and did my pose and we shook hands and I went on my way,” Giannopoulos said.


“Ultimately, what I found is that, you know, on a person-to-person level Trump was very polite to me. He complimented my style,” Giannopoulos said. “I was visibly queer and I think he knew that. I don’t think that there are necessarily personal biases at play here, but the political situation is very volatile and I’m very concerned about the … policies that are being pushed by the current administration.”


“I was invited to the White House because I’ve dedicated myself to my students and to a life of public service as a public educator. And I’m very concerned that the future of public education is not a bright one,” Giannopoulos explained. “It has nothing to do with the students or the teachers and everything to do with the policies that are being put in place. So, if I could say anything at all to the president, it would be to invest in public schools, invest in public school students and invest in public educators.”

Trump wasn't interested in any input. Just photo ops.

Here's Giannopoulos' facebook post about the visit where he writes: "In previous years, state teachers of the year were given the opportunity to speak to the president for a few minutes each." He writes of gratitude for support in his life, on education and on marginalization of LGBT people and people of color.

Fabulous picture, by the way.

h/t Jean

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