Moraga Council Salutes Tolerance Wall Artist

Town proclamation 'means so much to me,' says Ryan Andresen, 18-year-old who was denied Eagle Scout badge after coming out.

The Moraga Town Council put some wind beneath the wings of local resident Ryan Andresen, paying tribute to the 18-year-old's Eagle Scout project  — a "Tolerance Wall" 288-tile artistic display at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School.

Called to the stage at the Joaquin Moraga auditorium for a proclamation, Andresen told the council, "Thank you, guys. This means so much to me. This is crazy."

One tile by Andresen reads, "My wonderful parents — I couldn't have made it this far without you. I love you."

A little later, an emotional Vice Mayor Howard Harpham remembered achieving his own Eagle Scout achievement decades ago. "I was so full of myself that I didn't tell my parents how much I appreciated them, and they're gone and I'll never be able to get that moment back."

Of the Andresen proclamation, Harpham said, "There truly are moments that allow us to bring out and show the better angels of our nature. I think this is one of them."

Andresen became a national celebrity last month through a petition organized by his mother Karen Andresen protesting the Boy Scouts' denial of Ryan's Eagle Scout badge because he had come out to his troop as gay. Ryan Andresen appeared on Ellen DeGeneres' national television show.

"I commend you for standing up for who you really are," said Council member Dave Trotter, who added the tolerance wall will make a lasting impact at the intermediate school.

Council member Karen Mendonca read off memorable phrases from the tolerance wall:

  • Niceness is priceless.
  • Be yourself — no one does it better.
  • Bullying is cruel, not cool.
  • Exclusion is not an option.

Four members of the public spoke out for Andresen:

  • Renee Zeimer said she had pressed for public recognition in town before Andresen goes off to college. "This is a difficult town for young people, especially if you don't fit the mold."
  • Barry Behr saluted "your integrity, your tenacity … You fly much higher than any eagle."
  • Karen Lewis said, "Thank you for being out and being proud … you make it easier for other people when you do that."
  • Lynda Deschambault said, "You speak volumes not just for Moraga but throughout California and throughout the world."


Chris Nicholson November 15, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Did the Council also individually honor each of the other Moraga boys who completed an Eagle Scout project? Or are they implicitly taking sides on the "gays in scouts" controversy. If the latter, why not be explicit about it? If I were another freshly minted Eagle Scout, I'd feel slighted. If I were an advocate for allowing gays in scouting, I'd feel slighted.
Andrew November 15, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Gotta love the public comments....a former MTC member who was "outed" for embellishing her professional accomplishments and a parent who spearheaded the trashing of a public school teacher in the MSD in 1993 who ultimately was unfairly terminated from a career in public instruction. Aside from the nice touchy-feely proceedings, the problem still remains of a tone deaf MTC.
lovelafayette November 15, 2012 at 06:06 PM
@ Chris: Whining is unlike you, but you are whining! Each boy was honored once, that is equity. Remember that Ryan was not honored by bsa, his "award" was excommunication! Seems he was honored by Moraga as a humanitarian; not just for the wall but for his strength of character and struggle to make a difference in the aftermath of his shunning by BSA. He is a role model for Moraga youth. 2012 Moraga eagles are not role models in my book; they have chosen to remain members and accept accolades from a homophobic organization that spreads hate and divisiveness, instead of honoring inclusiveness and diversity . Did any other eagle project start a national dialogue, draw national media attention, and garner a college scholarship for the boy? Good job Ryan.
Regular Guy November 15, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Chris, they are politicians. Being political is their job. I don't see the problem with taking political stands that your voters support. My only complaint is when these politicians falsely claim that they are not acting politically, such as when the Lafayette Council allowed the crosses to remain in perpetuity despite their violation of a city ordinance. If a teen can be brave enough to admit being gay, why can't our politicians be brave enough to admit being political? I detest political cowards who want to take credit without taking responsibility. If you are going to make a political statement, admit it and own it. Stand for something. That's all I ask of our local elected officials.
Chris Nicholson November 15, 2012 at 08:36 PM
@RG: Agree 100%. I think it would have been preferable for them to be honest/explicit about the true reason for recognizing him: because the TC strongly opposes the discrimination against gays in scouting and that they acknowledge Ryan's efforts/sacrifices to further that position. Doesn't feel like the TC "owned it" in this case, but instead acted obliquely and by half-measure. By pretending to honor him solely for his project seems odd and wrong. It says: we want to honor you for having the balls to take an open stand for something you are passionate about, but we don't have the balls to do so overtly. Maybe I am the only one to find that sad and ironic.
Nice and Rough November 15, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Chris you just haven't learned how to read between the lines and appreciate the art of subtly. Often a hammer isn't the best choice for swatting a fly.
Nice and Rough November 15, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Wouldn't this have been more appropriate coming from the school district since the Tolerance Wall is at a school?
Dee November 15, 2012 at 09:52 PM
"You'd feel slighted" because you'd be in a victim frame of mind. Only victims think thoughts like that-that if someone gets something then it is taking from me or that I won't get mine, they immediately make it about their lack, etc. When you're whole and in your power, there is no "scarcity" mentality. A RISING TIDE LIFTS ALL BOATS.
Chris Nicholson November 15, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Those pesky things all look like nails to me.
Dan Perkins November 16, 2012 at 01:48 AM
I see no problem regards the council taking sides and if you were an Eagle Scout perhaps you wouldn't be so petty as to think this in any way takes away anything from anyway. Slighted indeed.
Dan Perkins November 16, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Does it matter?
Chris Nicholson November 16, 2012 at 01:56 AM
@DanP: If an Eagle Scout was seeking to make a bold moral stand, would he do so indirectly and obliquely or bluntly and transparently? That was my (attempted) point. The substance of the Council's action was fine and directionally laudatory. I just found it odd that they chose not to confront the core issue head on (for the reasons I pointed out elsewhere in this thread).
Nice and Rough November 16, 2012 at 05:03 AM
No. Just more logical for the school board to do it.
My Kids Dad November 17, 2012 at 01:52 AM
How about a little tolerance for the BSA. They have rules. You must be a boy, you must agree to their moral code, and that code is the traditional Judeo Christian view of sexuality. If you drive a camaro, don't try to join the mustang club.
Peter Kendall November 17, 2012 at 01:58 AM
My kids' Dad: Thank you for a little sanity here. It's amazing how scarce tolerance becomes when PC topics are on the table. Scouts is not a club, it's one of our nation's best character-building youth organizations. I treasure my Scouting experiences and am proud of my son's Eagle status. Period.
Nice and Rough November 17, 2012 at 05:34 AM
Who's intolerant of the BSA? Are you suggesting that people be forced to support the BSA? People who don't want to give to the BSA are free not to do so and to speak out against them. People who oppose the BSA are not doing anything wrong and it's certainly not intolerant to oppose discriminatory practices. Likewise, there's nothing wrong with a private group like the BSA having discriminatory practices. That its choice. But, every choice comes with a cost. In this case, the cost is that the BSA receives a great deal of criticism. If you want to be a private club and discriminate that's just the price to pay. BSA leadership should simply ignore the controversy and press on. The biggest problem in this issue is that people on both sides have assigned iconic status to the BSA. It's a club. Nothing more. Nothing less. Lots of clubs teach leadership skills. And, ROTC is a more patriotic endeavor. There's also nothing wrong with corporations deciding not to give money to groups such as the BSA. Public opinion is not with Scouts on this issue so corporations are wise to just avoid the whole mess. That's simply the price the Scouts pay for its membership decisions. Given the wealth of the two primary religious organizations that support the BSA I doubt the Scouts will be hurting for money. So, why should the Scouts care? Both sides should just press on and worry about more important things.


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