The Collegian
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Who is Keith Boykin?

Gay-Pril speech
Gay-Pril speech

Keith Boykin doesn't play it safe. One might even question if he knows how. After graduating from Harvard Law School, alongside President Barack Obama, Boykin decided against practicing law like many of his fellow classmates. Instead, Boykin pursued his passion for politics and joined the Clinton/Gore campaign in Little Rock, Ark.

Boykin credits following his heart as the driving force in his career. "Society encourages us to take the safe road," Boykin said in a telephone interview.

We often feel pressure to do what our parents tell us to do, he said, "But the way to really live your life to the fullest is to follow your passion."

Boykin serves as the editor of "The Daily Voice" online news site, a CNBC contributor, host of the talk show "My Two Cents" on BET and a New York Times best-selling author.

Boykin, who was initially reluctant to discuss his newest project, revealed he was currently writing two books. One of the books will be titled, "For Colored Boys Who have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Not Enough."

It is hoped the book will be used as an educational tool to open the doors of communication for people of color, Boykin said, particularly to discuss the issue of sexuality and coming of age.

The book, which includes essays from authors and reflections from various people, is geared toward youth who are struggling with their sexuality across America, he said.

The other book is about Obama's political campaign for re-election in the 2012 presidential election.

"I think [Obama] will probably run a methodical, orderly campaign," Boykin said.

It seemed odd, however, that he would announce his campaign this week since there is so much going on in Libya and other parts of the world, he said. It just goes to show how disciplined he is, he said.

During the last campaign, other candidates were willing to move events, talks and appearances around when things didn't work out, but Obama did not, Boykin said.

"One of the frustrating things about Obama, but one of the reasons he is most successful is that he doesn't react to every whim or changing course," he said.

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It is common for politicians to change their stance on issues, but Obama is reluctant to change his opinions, Boykin said.

"It has served him very well and I believe he will continue this strategy," he said.

As the first African-American President of the Harvard Law Review, Obama was very well known, Boykin said. Although Obama and Boykin were never close friends, Obama spoke at a rally Boykin had organized that promoted faculty diversity at Harvard.

It was not until Obama and Boykin were invited by a Harvard professor to do a double book-signing event in Massachusetts, that Boykin became aware that Obama was interested in politics.

During the event Obama indicated to Boykin that he was considering running for a Senate seat in Illinois.

"I remember thinking never in my wildest dreams would he be President of the United States," Boykin said.

Although politics and writing have been a huge interest of Boykin's, traveling is another of his biggest passions, he said. Having gone to Israel a month ago, Boykin described his experience as unbelievable.

It is very important for people to travel across the nation and around the world, Boykin said. You get a better perspective of the world because you are not limited to your own neighborhood, he said.

Citizens of the United States are among the few people in the world who can speak their own language and use American currency in many places around the world, yet they make up only five percent of the world's population, he said.

When the news of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan spread, Boykin said his immediate reaction was deep sympathy for the tragic losses suffered by its people.

"Oddly, the story in Japan has evolved from a human tragedy into a political cautionary tale," he said.

The nuclear disaster that is taking place right now is threatening Japan's citizens and their neighbors. There are incredibly important lessons to be learned regarding nuclear power and the need for safer energy, he said.

Speaking to his own personal life lessons, Boykin said he had realized that above all personal integrity is one of the most important qualities a human can have. Boykin, who came out as being homosexual in law school, said there was a different attitude toward LGBT issues then.

"We didn't have presidents who talked about it," Boykin said. "Not even the most progressive LGBT advocates were talking about gay marriage or lifting the ban on 'Don't Ask Don't Tell.' There was no 'Will & Grace', no Ellen show, no Facebook, no Twitter and no support groups. The world has changed dramatically in the past 20 years and will continue to change based on what people are doing on your campus."

Young people are on the cusp of where the change is taking place, he said.

"I think this is an exciting time...a great time and I'm glad people on this campus will be able to be on the ground floor of the revolution," he said.

Contact staff writer Liz Monahan at liz.monahan@richmond.edu.

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