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Harvey Milk as a Leader Who Was a Catalyst for Change: Biography Essay

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How different would this world be if Harvey Milk was still alive today? Today, there are a lot of people in San Francisco who still don’t know who Harvey Milk is and was, but he was an important man in the history of San Francisco during the 1970s that changed the way of life for the people in the LGBTQ community. During Milk’s time, he impacted young people, senior citizens, and the gay community, but today Milk is still being remembered after his death 40 years ago, and almost everyone accepts people being LGBTQ. Overall, Harvey was a leader that was a catalyst for change.

Milk Harvey Milk was a leader that helped inspire the way LGBTQ people are today. An example of this is in the research paper ‘The Pioneer Harvey Milk’ by John Cloud. It says: “His death inspired many associates – most notably Cleve Jones, who later envisioned the greatest work of art, the AIDS quilt”. This quote explains how Harvey Milk's death inspired and triggered Jones to have an amazing idea for the AIDS quilt. This quilt is an enormous memorial to remember the lives of people who have died of AIDS and similar causes. Weighing an estimated 54 tons, it is the largest piece of community folk art in the world as of 2016. Another example from the same text is: “John Cloud is a staff writer for TIME magazine and covers politics, crime, and other social issues”. John Cloud was inspired by Harvey Milk to now write about issues, and he wrote many papers on Harvey Milk. Today John Cloud has won many awards and is known for being the face of gay power. An additional example from ‘The Mayor of Castro Street’ by Randy Shilts is on pages 211-214. During a gay protest police, shot rubber balls that tore off the scalp of the women marching next to Cleve Jones. It says: “Rather than surrender, the gay protesters launched into an elaborate game of cat and mouse in the streets of Barcelona”. This shows how the gay protestors were motivated by Harvey Milk being in office. Ultimately, Harvey Milk helps gays become more self-aware and not be afraid of showing what they are.

Harvey Milk changed the way of life for gay people today. For example, in the text ‘The Pioneer Harvey Milk’, John Cloud says: “After Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected to any substantial political office in the history of the planet, thousands of astounded people wrote to him. ‘I thank God’, wrote a 68-year-old lesbian”. This quote is explaining how after he got elected into office many people were content and wrote to him about how he changed their life. Another example from ‘The Pioneer Harvey Milk’ says, “No one person could change all that, and not all the changes are complete. But a few powerful figures gave gay individuals the confidence they needed to stop lying, and none understood how his public role could affect private lives better than Milk”. This quote from the text explains how no one really gave the gay community, the confidence to not be afraid and come out, but Harvey Milk was a powerful figure that changed the lives of LGBTQ people for the better. A third example from ‘The Pioneer Harvey Milk’ says, “Milk’s killing probably awakened as many gay people as his election had”. This quote explains how by Harvey Milk’s death he was able to make even more gay people open up about their sexuality. His election and his death made him even more popular today and made the gay community more powerful, especially in 2019.

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Gay people were treated terribly up until the time Harvey Milk was elected to office. An example of gay people being treated terribly is in ‘The Mayor of Castro Street’ by Randy Shilts on pages 91-93. Two young men had been standing inside Hamburger Mary’s, a popular gay hippie restaurant, “Two police officers had simply walked in, beat them to the floor with their billy clubs, and hauled them into a paddy wagon, where they pummeled them more. This comes to show that just by being inside a gay restaurant police will beat you and think badly of you. This type of treatment that the gays received during this time is awful when you think about it now and there is nothing you can do because that is in the past. A second example of the gay community being mistreated is in a police station when a cop and a gay person, ordered to be stripped down and beaten. The gay person said: “He got a funny look each time he hit me, one of the victims said when he recounted his story to a gay paper. It was like all his frustrations were coming out”. This text shows how it is usually the police doing damage to the gay community instead of others. Police during this time thought they had special rights to beat whomever they want, and some cops still think they do because there are videos of them surfing the web. An additional example of gays being brutalized is from ‘The Mayor of Castro Street’ by Randy Shilts on pages 91-93, it said: “According to an account in one gay newspaper, the police managed to hospitalize three men on foray alone. One with his skull split open. The trio was charged with trespassing in a park”. This is another example of police just abusing their power and not thinking right. Those three men are still human, even if they are gay. The police first beat them badly enough to hospitalize them, and then they were charged with trespassing in a park. Usually, all parks are public, so this shows the police are corrupt.

Harvey Milk is many things and has had many achievements. Two characteristics of Harvey Milk that he has is courage and vision. Milk has courage because, in the film we watched in class, he stands in front of crowds and speaks to them without being afraid of getting killed on the spot. Many figures have died in that manner. Milk had vision because he had a clear picture in his mind that he was committed and passionate about creating. He wanted a future where everyone was safe and sound in their own body. These characteristics were important when Milk lived because the gay community in San Francisco needed a leader for them to stop hiding. These two characteristics aided him in becoming a catalyst for change because Milk had a goal in his mind and he dared to achieve that goal and not be afraid because of his sexuality.

In today’s world, Harvey Milk would be a catalyst for change because in his time he was helping only some people in San Francisco, but today there are even more people, so he would be changing even more people’s lives. He would be working for the city, so he would have a say in how things work. For example, he would be able to change laws or have changes in the city made. Overall, Harvey Milk was a leader that changed the gay community and the perspectives of non-gay people today.

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Harvey Milk as a Leader Who Was a Catalyst for Change: Biography Essay. (2023, October 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from
“Harvey Milk as a Leader Who Was a Catalyst for Change: Biography Essay.” Edubirdie, 11 Oct. 2023,
Harvey Milk as a Leader Who Was a Catalyst for Change: Biography Essay. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Mar. 2024].
Harvey Milk as a Leader Who Was a Catalyst for Change: Biography Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Oct 11 [cited 2024 Mar 3]. Available from:
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