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."