Courageous. Inspirational. Groundbreaking. These are just some of the words that come to mind when I think about Katie Miller, one of our 2013 NCCWSL Women of Distinction. Miller’s story is truly inspiring and gives me the courage to lead no matter what barriers stand in the way.
Ranked eighth in her class of more than 1,000 cadets, Miller was a model student at the U.S. Military Academy. But under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that prohibited gay men and women from serving the country openly and freely, Miller felt she was living untruthfully. She could not keep quiet and had to speak out. The truth came out in 2010, when she announced her resignation from West Point — and her sexuality — on live television.
Reading Miller’s story is eye-opening. Being gay in the military then was a controversial issue and continues to be even after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”; but Miller saw no other way to live than to be honest. She showed her bravery by looking past the criticism — and, at the time, the apparent end of her promising military career — and coming out.
Following her resignation and announcement, Miller joined the founding board of OutServe, a then-underground network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) service members. She then advocated for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
A recent graduate from Yale University, Miller continues to thrive as an advocate for LGBT service members. Now the policy and government affairs chair for OutServe-SLDN (OutServe merged in 2012 with the Service Members Legal Defense Network), Miller has become the youngest board member of a major LGBT organization. She also recently joined the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress as their special assistant and plans on returning to the military soon.
All that Miller has done inspires me to go against the grain: Speak out, stand up, and make a difference. She has led gallantly and candidly and encourages me to lead with the same vision. Whether your passion lies within the LGBT community or elsewhere, Miller’s leadership can truly motivate anyone to take a stand and make a new way for tomorrow.
I look forward to hearing the words of strength and leadership that Miller will deliver at NCCWSL 2013! Will you be there?
This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.