Two years after the uproar over Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s controversial comments on same-sex marriage, the divisiveness still remains on both sides of the debate over Chick-fil-A, despite the fast food chains efforts to move forward and stopping donations to anti-LGBTQ hate groups.
Cathy in March 2014 told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a rare interview, “Every leader goes through different phases of maturity, growth and development and it helps by [recognizing] the mistakes that you make.” He added, “And you learn from those mistakes. If not, you’re just a fool. I’m thankful that I lived through it and I learned a lot from it.”
Then a month later Cathy spoke in an interview with USA Today acknowledging his friendship with Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer sharing, “All of us become more wise as time goes by. We sincerely care about all people.”
Today, Chick-fil-A is in the spotlight once again as they move their fast food franchise into New York City, a difficult market for restaurants with a largely LGBTQ-supportive community. The opening of the store last week met with huge accolades as well as some protests. So, what has changed or not changed with Chick-fil-A? How has Cathy’s newfound friendship with a leader in the LGBTQ movement impacted him personally?
In a time where marriage equality is the law of the land and LGBTQ rights in other respects are on the rise, it is a pivotal moment in the movement for LGBTQ equality. It begs the question, how should the LGBTQ movement interact with people with opposing viewpoints? How can we have those difficult conversations and change hearts and minds through civility and respect?
In a new program titled “The Blessing of Growth: Sitting Down at the Table with Chick-fil-A,” Windmeyer shares his experiences with Chick-fil-A, becoming friends with Cathy and the lessons learned when it comes to leadership, respect and civility that grew out of this relationship. Windmeyer posits that through civil dialogue and effective leadership, we can change the world investing in deepened relationships and realizing that “opposing viewpoints do not have to be opposing people.” Finding humanity in others is crucial. Finding the common ground that link all people and building enduring relationships based on them are the strategies that create real change.
“The Blessing of Growth: Sitting Down at the Table with Chick-fil-A” is meant for outreach on campuses trying to hold open, honest dialogue among groups with varied perspectives and opinions. The goal of this program is to create safer spaces for conversation that could ultimately create better and safer communities.
“In the end, it is not about eating (or eating a certain chicken sandwich). It is about sitting down at a table together and sharing our views as human beings, engaged in real, respectful, civil dialogue,” said Windmeyer in the Huffington Post article, “Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A.” “Dan would probably call this act the biblical definition of hospitality. I would call it human decency. So long as we are all at the same table and talking, does it matter what we call it or what we eat?”
LEARN MORE: To learn more about “The Blessing of Growth: Sitting Down at the Table with Chick-fil-A,” Shane Windmeyer and other programs offered by the Campus Pride Speakers Bureau visit online, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 704-277-6710 ext 0.
Campus Pride freelance writer Allison Marie Turner, an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, contributed to this article. Follow her on Twitter @amturner1993.
Campus Pride is the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. The organization provides resources and services to thousands of college students and nearly 1400 campuses annually. Learn more online at CampusPride.org.