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Remembering Michael Bauer, a call to pick up the baton
by Coco Soodek
2019-09-03

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Remarks as prepared for delivery at the memorial service for community leader Mike Bauer, Sept. 3, 2019.

I'm here to speak for the hundreds of people for whom Mike was also a mentor, a teacher, a coach. If you are one of those people who Mike took by he hand, raise your hand. I'll get back to you in a moment.

I met Mike in January, 2003, at a movie screening about a middle aged married Heterosexual Cisgender man who transitions. I thought the movie was too long and a scoche maudlin. Mike did not. I sat next to him, a virtual stranger, and he sobbed. Sobbed. I had wanted to meet him, because I wanted to get involved politically. Cause of W. But, I didn't have connections. I asked around. Everyone said Mike Bauer. I got lucky and handed him a tissue. We had lunch. We became friends. And he introduced me to the world.

Being Mike's friend was a treat. Cause with Mike, you got access. He knew everyone and always had a seat to fill. At first, it was a state senator here, a judge there, a gaggle of aldermen. Then, a member of congress, maybe a governor from a western state and on and on. One day, in the late winter of 08, Mike called. He had a fundraiser, he had raised all the dough, but a raging snow storm killed his crowd and made his venue impossible. Could I host — in an hour? Of course. So, in 08, it was Mike, me, about 3 lawyers from my firm and Joe Biden.

Seeing Mike at events was always such a relief. Didn't we all feel that at least a dozen times. You walk into an event. Maybe you've got a case of the shies. Or you just want to go home or back to work. And you don't know people in the room, who you like. Then, you see Mike. He gives you a big hug. He takes you by the hand. And, he introduces you around. He lets you hang on him, be in his orbit. Suddenly, you feel more relaxed and more energized than you thought possible.

Some of the things Mike taught me and dozens of other people seem aburdly obvious today, but when he taught them they were absurdly unfathomable. Here were just a few of his lessons.

- I and you and you and you and you and you can raise money, debate, demand, support and oppose anyone running or serving. Mike taught us we didn't need permission to speak or agitate. That we have both a right and an obligation to influence the trajectory of our communities.

-Demand that the people who ask for your vote and your cash stand for something until it hurts. It's ok to have high expectations. Because, as he said many times, WHY WORK FOR A CANDIDATE IF THEY WON'T STAND FOR THE THINGS WE NEED.

-Friend widely. Ever tried to walk a straight line with him through 312? Not possible. And, he was friends with everyone - Senators and teachers and Mayors and lawyers and waiters and VCs and moguls.

- It's ok if some people don't like you. Even if they don't like you a lot.

- Don't be intimidated by anyone. Not anyone. Everyone is just a person.

- When the going gets tough, fury is an effective fuel.

- Once you sign on to a campaign, you don't quit just cause you're probably going to lose. Because loyalty matters.

-And, he showed me, and this one spun me around — that you can dance with your same sex partner while wearing formal attire, next to other people wearing formal attire. Though I could never dance as joyously as he did.

All of the things he did came with sacrifice. He served as a lawyer, then a businessman, then an entrepreneur. His passion for politics cost money and time. The focus that some of us may devote to careerism he diverted to organizing, raising, mentoring. At one point, the morning after he took out a full page newpaper ad thanking Larry McKeon for his service he said to me "OH WELL. WE'LL NEVER HAVE A HOUSE IN MICHIGAN. BUT, THIS IS MORE IMPORTANT."

SO, WHAT NOW?

He stitched so many people, issues, organizations and constituencies together.

Once more, please. Each of you who had the privilege to be mentored by the great Michael Bauer, JD, MBA, VIP, MVP, raise your hands. He taught you and me through access, lessons, reprimands, disappoinments and pride - how to advance a cause or a candidate. How to be true to yourself as an activist.

-Each of you - each of us - owe it to Mike to pick up his baton.

-Friend Widely.

- Connect People Deliberately.

-Learn. Listen. Raise and fight.

-And, when someone sees you in a crowd, let them feel a sense of relief at your sight, welcome them, take them by the hand, introduce them around, and urge them to fight for what they believe in.

Also see www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/PASSAGES-Political-activist-Michael-Bauer-passes-away/66901.html and chicagogayhistory.com/biographies_alpha.html .


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