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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Freshmen meet their assignment’s author

    Reichen Lehmkuhl, who was gay in the Air Force academy during the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, came to SBU to talk about his book, the reading assignment for freshmen. (EZRA MARGONO /THE STATESMAN)

    Reichen Lehmkuhl visited Stony Brook on Wednesday to speak about a number of things including his book, his life and the struggles of current and past Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual and Queer (LGBTQ)  members of the armed forces. The Staller Center’s main stage was packed with freshmen for the former air force officer turned celebrity’s lecture at 12:50 p.m.

    In addition to being the author of the freshman class’s required summer reading book “Here’s What We’ll Say,” Lehmkuhl is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

    The lecture was a first of sorts for Reichen, originally Richard, Lehmkuhl. This was the first lecture that he has held since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as well as the first time he had spoken in front of an audience that had read his autobiography.

    Due to that last fact, the season four winner of the television show “Amazing Race” didn’t focus on the content of the book in his lecture. Instead, he talked mostly about the problems regarding homosexual behavior within the military.

    His openness and joking manner allowed him to talk easily about such a touchy subject. He negatively pointed out the procedures that the military uses to investigate suspected gays.

    As a homosexual, Lehmkuhl quit the Air Force because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and although he’s happy about its repeal, he doesn’t think the problem is completely solved.

    “The policy is gone,” Lehmkuhl said. “But the attitude has not changed.”

    Shelby Zellman, a freshman who attended the event, learned a lot from listening to his lecture.

    “I thought his lecture was extremely inspiring,” said Zellman. “His lecture taught me perseverance is key and that anything is possible.”

    Throughout the lecture, he made several references to his dislike of some politicians due to their views on homosexuality, such as former Republican presidential candidate John McCain, to whom Lehmkuhl devoted an entire slide. But at the same time, Lehmkuhl praised multiple military officers and activists who have been spearheading the movement for LGBTQ rights in the military.

    His autobiography, “Here’s What We’ll Say,” is currently in the process of being made into a film. Lehmkuhl began writing his book by first just writing down past memories, which eventually became an entire story.

    At one point in the lecture, he read a passage from the prologue — his favorite part of the book — to the audience. His reading included an inspirational and fitting quote from his grandmother, Grandma Turner: “flying an airplane over the worst conditions and surviving.”

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