Leaders come out, inspire others

Camille Galles

In the flurry of election news, two other important proclamations seem to have been forgotten. In the past two weeks, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics both publicly came out as gay. The actions of these two men demonstrate that the power to make a difference isn’t limited to large policy changes. Fearlessly living your own truth can be more powerful than a dozen laws.  

Learning that the head of a successful company and a popular politician take pride in their sexuality can be a source of hope for many people, especially when that sexuality could still get you fired in 29 states. For Rinkevics and other Latvians, a constitutional amendment bans same-sex marriage.

But plenty of high-profile figures have come out as gay, and Cook and Rinkevics are surely not the last to do so. However, their actions are less important than the motivation behind them.

“I don’t consider myself an activist,” wrote Cook in an essay published by Bloomberg Businessweek. “I’m doing my part, however small, to help others.”

Rinkevics’ contribution is arguably even smaller than an essay — his announcement came in just a simple tweet. 

But by doing what it takes to establish personal honesty and integrity for themselves, Cook and Rinkevics encourage others to do the same. It’s impossible to take care of others without first taking care of yourself. Both men exemplify the fact that you don’t have to consider yourself an activist to make a positive impact on the world.

Not every gay person has the security, means or desire to publicly come out the way Cook or Rinkevics did. That’s OK. Despite the publicity, neither man’s actions are likely to result in a drastic policy change. That’s OK, too.

Sometimes small acts of good that take care of us are the only thing we can do. It’s vital that we continue to do them. Small, courageous actions accumulate and take on a life larger than ourselves, which is more powerful than any policy.