Tracker Pixel for Entry

Proud Family

Culture | August 8th, 2013

Cover by Raul Gomez

Wahpeton family visits The White House for LGBT pride event

Love is what I saw in Valerie and Diane’s letter from North Dakota, who’ve been together for 37 years. Their son, Madison, is here, 14. They told me that when Madison was little -- he’s not little now, by the way. He used to say that someday, he was going to become president and make it legal for his moms to get married. – President Barack Obama, White House’s LGBT Pride Month Reception.

In April 2013, Valerie Nelson of Wahpeton, N.D. wrote a letter to President Obama thanking him for supporting marriage equality and LGBT rights.

In the letter she also talked about her family, which includes her partner Diane Gira and their adopted son Madison Nelson-Gira, and how they are from a small town in North Dakota.

“I didn’t really think too much of it. I hit the submit button after I read it to them to make sure it was okay with them,” Nelson said.

“And there was a question, ‘Do you need any response?’ And I just said: ‘Nope. No response necessary. I just want President Obama to know how much we appreciate what he is doing.’”

Then, on the morning of May 31, Nelson got a call from The White House. It was a lady named Stephanie, first asking Nelson if it was okay that the call was being recorded and then verifying that she was the one who wrote the letter.

Nelson recalled Stephanie’s words: “As you know, he and the first lady are huge supporters of the LGBT community, and every June they host a pride reception at The White House – and this year they want you to be their guests.”

The event was held on June 13 and included about 500 to 700 people, according to Nelson’s estimation. Though only the chosen eight letter writers and their guests got to meet the president and get their picture taken with him.

“The Bears sold it,” Madison said, referring to his suggestion to add “Madison says, Go Bears!” to the end of the letter. He knew Obama is a longtime Chicago Bears fan.

“When we got the call from The White House, that was one of the things (Stephanie) mentioned,” Nelson recalled. “She said, ‘Tell Madison the president was really excited to know that he was a Bears fan.’”

Nelson also said Obama is as warm, cool and down to earth in person as he is hyped up to be.

“It’s just incredible how open and affirming – and what an ally we have in The White House. It’s just amazing,” she said.

The event included a speech from the president, all access to the second floor of The White House’s East Wing, a briefing from top government administrators about what they are doing to continue advancing LGBT rights, and plenty of mingling with other gay rights activists, lawmakers and supporters from around the country.

Gira, who was born and raised in Wahpeton, thinks our country has come a long way since she and Nelson became a couple more than 30 years ago.

“I never thought I’d see the day where it was legal to get married and then all of the sudden, boom, boom, boom, 12 states,” she said. “I think the rest will have to follow within a few years.”

Obama, in his speech, even said, “I don’t think we’re going to have to wait that long … (America has) become not just more accepting; we've become more loving, as a country, and as a people. Hearts and minds change with time. Laws do, too.”

It goes to show how thoughtful little actions, such as writing a letter of thanks, can have amazing rewards.

“We have just been minor little activists,” Nelson said. “We have not been people out on the street, waving our flags and demanding justice. We just go about living our life and try to lead by example – to show people that we are just like everyone else.”

Recently in:

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comEveryone knows that dogs are often referred to as “man’s best friend.” It’s no mystery why. During…

By Olivia Slyteroslyter@cord.eduFalcon Gott, Sapotaweyak Cree Nation member and filmmaker/photographer, was recently named North Dakota Human Rights Film Festival Native American Programs Director, and has many projects in store…

Sons of Norway, Kringen Lodge #4-25, is a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Norwegian culture.Sentrum på 722 2nd Ave N, FargoKringen Kafe er åpen for Kaffe og Bakverk mandag-fredag 9.00 til…

By John Strandjas@hpr1.comOur Opinion: The Little Newspaper That Could, still can.Like most everyone else we know, HPR is different these days. The pandemic changed our world in ways we never imagined. Yet here we are. And as you…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.com When Will It End? Gun Culture Has Killed 1,500,000 Americans in 50 YearsOn Thanksgiving Day, 25-year-old Philadelphian Edilberto Miguel Palaez Moctezuma was eating his turkey dinner with his…

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com“If you had talked to me five years ago or even a year ago and told me I was gonna be a chef in Fargo I probably would have looked at you pretty funny. It's wild where food is taking me in…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comYou may recognize Owen Hanson, from seeing him play with any number of folk punk projects throughout the past few years, such as his solo project Owen Broke, Bottle Wound, or Mr. Meaner. His folk…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.comMaster filmmaker Jane Campion, notching a fresh Silver Lion win for Best Direction at the recent Venice Film Festival, returns to the screen after a twelve-year absence with “The Power of the…

By Alicia Underlee Nelsonalicia@hpr1.comCreative Moorhead is injecting new life into Moorhead’s art scene and revitalizing its downtown spaces. Artistic or handy people with a connection to the city are encouraged to connect with…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comDrag shows, for me, feel like a celebration of artistry, esthetic, music, and camaraderie. With a dash of confetti thrown in.The local drag community is a close-knit family. Giving back to affiliated…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comAdam Quesnell's last show at The Cellar beneath the Front Street Taproom in Fargo was in early September of 2018. He was embarking on a seminal move from Minneapolis to LA. As always, his comedy was…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Theresa L. Goodrichsubmit@hpr1.comIt was day ten of our epic southwest road trip and we’d made it to Arizona. After camping in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and New Mexico, we were exhausted, but fortunately our night in…

by Annie Prafckesubmit@hpr1.com17 June 2021On June 19th, from 12pm to 7pm, nonprofit Faith4Hope Scholarship Fund is hosting their first ever Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. It is free and open to the…