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A Message from EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon on LGBT Month 2020

Many of our ancestors who immigrated to America idealized this country before they arrived, and once they got here, despite challenges and hardships, they and their children fell in love even more deeply with the United States. 

Few people ever let that love flow into his work more than did Aaron Copland, born in Brooklyn at the dawn of the 20th century to Lithuanian Jewish immigrant parents originally named Kaplan.  Growing up in the Big Apple in a dazzling, multi-creative age, he became a sophis­ticated New Yorker.  He was influenced by Igor Stravinsky and the dodeca­phony -- aka twelve-tone serialism -- of Arnold Schoenberg.  He studied in Paris under Nadia Boulanger and others. He was as clued in, cultural and avant-garde as they come.

But it was the call of the frontier and the grand vastness of the American West that really enamored Copland to his country, its heritage and its possibilities.  It was by breathing in the spirit of the pioneers, and giving it his own breath right back, that Aaron Copland became the ultimate American composer, writing masterpieces that put the American ethos to music as few others were ever able to do. 

Listen to Fanfare for the Common Man as you think of any of your heroes, whether presidents or poets, generals or foot soldiers, parents or teachers, and you and those heroes will be lifted into a glorious spiritual pantheon in just a few minutes. 

Listen to Lincoln Portrait anywhere – especially recom­mended while driving through Mr. Lincoln’s Kentucky, Indiana or Illinois or standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial -- and you’ll be elevated into grandeur as power­fully as when you hear the Great Emanci­pator’s words. 

Listen to Appalachian Spring – preferably in Appalachia in spring, of course, but any­where where you are moved by creative impulses in any season – and you’ll feel more spring-like and more American.  

All of this seminal Americana came from a Lithuanian-Jewish American who was briefly blacklisted in the McCarthy era. In other words, this man knew what it was like to be treated as an outsider. 

And he was an outsider in one other way as well. Like Walt Whitman, who conveyed Americanism in poetry as Copland did in music, Aaron was gay. He never “came out,” but didn’t particularly try to hide in the closet either. This, of course, should be the option of every gay American. Some­ in the LGBT community want to be openly gay and active in the LGBT move­ment. Others simply want to be what they are and live as they wish. and love whom they love and not be mistreated because of it. 

The EEOC is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees to be judged by their talents and accomplishments alone.  As discrimination and injustice are cacophonies, fairness and justice are beautiful music – just as Aaron Copland made all his life.  We at the EEOC are privileged to join in that symphony every day.