My prepared remarks (I frequently went off-script):
Thank you Mark and thank you to the organizers of Rising Tide. Mark– Oyster, as we know affectionately know you– I realize you have somewhat of a conflict of interest, but for me and I’m sure for everyone else here, you have carried on the legacy of Ashley Morris with more skill, more gusto, and more heart than anyone else. If, one day, you ever decide to give yourself this award, we’ll all understand.This is a huge honor. And it’s made all the more special because the award is named after a man that I deeply admired, both as a writer and as a fierce advocate for the people of Louisiana. I’m very grateful that only a few months before he passed away, I was able to tell Ashley Morris that I was a fan of his and that he was able to say, “Hey, thanks.”I recognize I am not the likeliest of recipients. For one thing, this conference celebrates the culture and the PEOPLE of New Orleans, and I’ve never actually lived in New Orleans.Do you guys remember David Simon’s lecture on “standing” from a couple of years ago? I’m still trying to figure out what he meant, but I know this: I’m much more likely to fall when standing than when sitting. So, forgive me, but I’m going to remain seated.Mark’s been generous enough to give me a few minutes to speak, so I’m going to do my best Jindal impersonation and attempt to roll through my remarks as fast as humanly possible.I just wanted to share a few pieces of advice with you all, my fellow bloggers, advocates, activists, and, most importantly, my fellow Louisianans.First and most importantly, WRITE FEARLESSLY. It wasn’t until I was a freshman at Rice University that I learned what it meant to write fearlessly. I’d just lost my father. He died when he was only 41, and at the time, I was enrolled in my first-ever creative writing class- a personal essay class, which was taught by a woman named Marsha Recknagel. In the midst of my grief, she taught me that writing could be empowering, but in order to be empowered, you must also allow yourself to become vulnerable: Sometimes, that means sharing things that are painful or even embarrassing. For me, it means, for example, that when I write about the defeat of an anti-school bullying bill against kids who are different, whether because of their sexual orientation or their physical or mental disability, I must be willing to share with all of you, despite my pride and my strong sense of independence, that I was bullied because of my disability when I was a kid– purposely knocked down in the halls of my high school, called names– and that even though I’m all grown up now, it really hasn’t ended. Writing fearlessly requires that you stomach some personal vulnerability. But oddly enough, vulnerability can be empowering.Second, DON’T BE AFRAID TO APOLOGIZE. As most of you know, Andrew Breitbart’s final public statement was an apology to yours truly. It may have been uncharacteristic of him, but for many of his fans, after his passing, that final tweet reinforced his humanity. Again, you can only become empowered as a blogger or an advocate if you also allow yourself to be vulnerable. When you’re wrong, admit your mistake.And finally, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Be exhaustive. Be thorough. If you’re going to publicly take a position on any given issue, do the rest of us a favor: Become an expert on that issue. If you do that, I promise: You’ll very rarely have to apologize, and people will pay attention.So, I’m running out of time, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank a few other people. Really, really quick: My mom, my brother, and my sister; my old boss, the current Mayor of Alexandria and our future Governor, Jacques Roy; my best friend and my best editor ever, Daniel T. Smith; my partner in crime and someone who has become like a brother from another mother, Zack Kopplin; my friend Matt Bailey, who coaxed me into help him create a chapter of the New Leaders Council here in Louisiana; the great Dambala, also known as Jason Berry; all of the people who have contributed to and commented on my website during the last six years; the good people at the website The Daily Kingfish, most notably its founder Ryan, and, of course, Tony Perkins, Gene Mills, John White, Bobby Jindal, and the overwhelming majority of the Louisiana legislature, for giving me and others a fight worth fighting and one that I know, together, we will win.I’ve got this bumpersticker on my computer that says “Remember Ashley Morris. FYYFF.” Remind me again, what does FYYFF mean?