No small roles

By David Coulter

I had the special honor of receiving the Political Involvement award at last month's Human Rights Campaign dinner. Since I've only been a politician for a short time, it was a new and special experience for me.

It was a thrill, for instance, to share the stage with the Governor, who had a role in helping me win the award. I was a volunteer in her Livonia campaign office last winter and watching her reminded me about all the things I love about politics. It was then I decided that I wanted to get even more involved.

There have been many important moments over the last few years that brought me to that stage. My best friend's death by suicide a decade ago was perhaps the first. Struggling to create something positive from that tragic experience, I worked with three friends to start the first college scholarship in Michigan for LGBT students at Wayne State University, his alma mater. Toady, the Michael P. Lagatella Scholarship continues to award $1,000 annually to deserving students.

I know Michael was smiling the night I defeated a 20 year incumbent to become Oakland County Commissioner. We shared a love of politics and a belief that individuals can make a real difference in making things better for everyone.

While there were many moments that led me to that stage, however, I've learned that the most important moment wasn't the day Michael died, or the night I won the election, or even the times I stood up against the intolerance of our opponents. I've discovered that what's most important is the moment when we finally decided to try. When we finally get up off the couch and quit dreaming and start doing something.

Someone once said that our deepest fear is not that we're inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. That it's our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. And I've realized that all the reasons I had for not pursuing my passion for politics were really just excuses.

So for all of you that are actively living your dreams, whatever those dreams may be, I say to you, thank you! But for anyone who is still ignoring their passions, ignoring those dreams you've known since you were a child but have kept locked up - locked up not because you don't think you can do it but because you've never given yourself permission to try - to you I'd say this:

It doesn't serve you, it doesn't serve our community or our world, for us to play small roles. The talent represented in our community is impressive, but it's the potential in each one of us that is powerful beyond measure.

I'll value the HRC award because it reminds me that I'm where I'm supposed to be. For the good of you and our community, next year I hope you're accepting yours.

David Coulter, an Oakland County Commissioner, represents Ferndale, Royal Oak and Hazel Park. He can be reached at


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