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WATCH | Spalding MFA faculty Lesléa Newman’s acceptance speech for Matthew Shepard Foundation’s Making a Difference Award

Steve Jones

Poet and author Lesléa Newman, a faculty member in the Spalding University Master of Fine Arts in Writing program, recently received the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s Making a Difference Award for her writing and work involving the LGBTQ community.

Watch and listen to Newman’s entire acceptance speech in the player below or by clicking here. It came during the foundation’s Bear to Make a Difference Gala in Denver.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation advocates for the LGBTQ community while seeking “to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion and acceptance,” according to its website. The organization was started by the parents of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who died after being brutally attacked in 1998.

Newman is the creator of 70 books, including many children’s books that feature LGBTQ characters. In 2012, she published October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, which explores the impact of Shepard’s murder through many poetic voices.

“It is up to each of us to make a difference in the memory of Matt Shepard, a young man who I never had the chance to meet but to whom I owe so much because I have been telling Matt’s story for the past 20 years,” Newman said during her speech. “I have met literally thousands of people. I have met high school students and college students. I have met teachers and librarians. I have met actors and activists. I have met parents and poets. And I have yet to meet a single person who has not been moved by hearing Matt’s story.”