Harrison Butker’s Rant … A Personal Perspective from a Disappointed Ga Tech Graduate and KC Chiefs Fan

Harrison Butker speaking at the Benedictine College Graduation (photo from Benedictine College)

I am a very proud Georgia Tech alumni and supporter of Georgia Tech’s athletic program. And I also have become a Kansas City Chiefs fan since I love Patrick Mahomes, this whole Taylor Swift – Travis Kelce thing, and their outstanding record-breaking field goal kicker Ga Tech alum Harrison Butker. And then Mr. Butker makes that outrageous May 11th graduation speech (link to the complete speech text) at Benedictine College full of mistaken facts and hatred, which sent social media into a frenzy. And now I am embarrassed and ashamed as a Tech graduate.

So what was wrong with Harrison Butker’s speech, and what is a better way where he could have made the same points without condemning or ostracizing people different from himself?

What was wrong:

• He extolled the virtues of women being stay-at-home mothers supporting their husband’s careers over and above other paths that women may have in their lives, in a sense belittling other paths. Many women may not have the luxury of husbands with multi-million dollar jobs and have to work, or may choose to be a career woman as a high priority.

• He made highly charged polarizing and political statements, calling President Biden “delusional” and condemning the path that Dr. Fauci took in addressing the COVID pandemic. A graduation speech should never be a forum for political partisanship, but instead an inclusive positive charge to the graduates.

• He condemned LGBTQ people and community as “the deadly sin sort of pride that has an entire month dedicated to it.”

What is a better way he could have made his points? What should have Mr. Butker done differently?

First, he could have extolled the role of the supportive wife and mother without placing it as more important or more virtuous than other roles and paths women may be on.

As a Ga Tech graduate and supporter, I am angered and embarrassed by Harrison Butker’s speech.

Second, he should have never made any politically-charged partisan statements nor railed against any demographic that is a critical part of our American community.

As a Georgia Tech graduate and an out gay man, I am totally insulted and embarrassed by Mr. Butker’s speech. I am pleased to see the NFL distance themselves from Mr. Butker’s remarks and state their ongoing commitment to inclusion of all people.

I don’t necessarily expect Georgia Tech to make similar statements (though that would be nice), since Tech cannot control all things their graduates say. But I do not want to see Ga Tech as an institution nor the Ga Tech athletic department continue to showcase Mr. Butker as a model Ga Tech success story and graduate. If they do, I may need to seriously reconsider my financial support of Ga Tech generally and Ga Tech athletics.

Introducing Andie Morgenlander and her film “Whistle Down Wind” – Queer People in Rural Appalachia

I have written several blogs in the past about performing arts and how they can highlight various areas of diversity and social justice.  Once again I am pleased to support this new film about an unaddressed segment of our population – LGBTQ+ people living in US Appalachia.  I also had a chance to discuss this important new film with the co-writer and director Andie Morgenlander.  Please read this fascinating and insightful interview and consider supporting her work!

STAN: Andie, could you tell us a little more about the film, maybe its plot and main characters?

ANDIE: I’m happy to go a little bit into the narrative, without giving too much away! It’s a queer love story, taking place in Southern Appalachia. The film is chapter-style, so we’ll see them in the late 90s as children and early/mid 2000s as teens, and then adults.

The story starts by nine-year old Janie’s artistic family relocating to a small Appalachian town. Her and Alex, her new next door neighbor, become inseparable – when Janie loses her Mother, Alex’s supportive place in her life becomes solidified. In their teenage years, Alex starts dating her youth group friend Jake, struggling to make sense of familial expectations and her beliefs. Alex and Janie navigate an awkward but enlivening double date and the social scene of their rural high school. The besties sneak out to a party, and a rollercoaster of an evening leads to their first kiss, intolerant frenemies provoking a fist fight and ultimately, getting caught and quickly closeted again by Alex’s parents.

You’ll have to see the film to find out what happens during the adult chapter, and how the story ends!

STAN: Why did you decide to make this particular film? Is there some particular unseen segment of the community you are wanting to make visible?

ANDIE: My hope with this film is to spotlight queer communities in Southern Appalachia. I think often times there is a misconception that trans and queer people don’t live in rural areas. And we do! There is such a rich history of LGBT+ resistance and existence in the South, and it’s really important to me that these narratives be shared. Lastly, shying away from southern stereotypes, we’ll explore a subtle, third space of queer identity and the impact of conservative ideology, family and grief on sexuality. Southern roots can be muddy. How do we break down the cultural barriers that keep us from fully loving one another?

STAN: Are there things from your own personal or life experiences that led you to create this film?

Film Co-Writer and Director Andie Morgenlander

ANDIE: This script is deeply inspired by parts of my co-writer, Julia Christgau’s, personal story. However, the film definitely reflects many aspects of my personal journey. From the impact of patriarchy on teenage relationships, to navigating family dynamics, to the saving grace of best friendships….these are all threads that have impacted my identity. Whistle Down Wind is the movie I needed growing up. It’s the film I need now – a mirror, a way of looking back and reminding my inner teenager that they were/are valid. My co-writer, Julia and I are both queer. I’m gender nonconforming and was born and raised in North Carolina. This narrative shows how we lean on our chosen family, our best friends, and our blood-bound family…even when it’s difficult. Our film makes visible a Southern slice of queer exploration that many have lived, but few have seen depicted in cinema. For these reasons, I am beyond grateful and stoked to direct this feature film.

STAN: What is your current schedule for the film and how may people be able to view it?

ANDIE: This Summer, we’ll shoot in Sylva, North Carolina with a blend of student filmmakers from Western Carolina University and professionals! We are less than two months away from shooting this film. To create an environment of mutual care on-set, we’ll shoot Whistle Down Wind through an ethical filmmaking framework. Historically, the film industry has been riddled with harmful practices, placing crew members’ needs last on the priority list. We believe those at the forefront of the making process should be treated as sacred human artists.

I wrote this framework with input from the Southern film community, my grad cohort and mentors. Liberation, collective care, equitable storytelling, accountability and wholeheartedness are the core elements of this methodology. In late June, we’ll have a week of orientation where we’ll teach/learn this framework together. Then, we shoot for eighteen days in June and July! After that, we’ll begin the post-journey. The film will likely play the festival circuit in late 2025 or early 2026, and receive online distribution. Maybe we can send a follow up email when it’s completed and ready to watch!!

STAN: How can people assist you in bringing this film to completion?

ANDIE: Right now we are raising 25K for production through our crowdfunding campaign: https://fundraising.fracturedatlas.org/whistle-down-wind-independent-feature-film/campaigns/6390 and these funds will help pay for food for the crew, cast + crew payments, housing and location costs. If you are able to spare a financial donation of any amount, they are all tax-deductible since we’re running this campaign through our fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas, who is a 501c3.

Additionally, if anyone has a catering connection in Asheville, Dillsboro or Sylva, NC OR access to a house that could be used as a location, in-kind support is incredibly helpful at this point in the process, so if you want to support in that way, don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected]. You can also follow our socials through @JusticeFilmCollective or @whistledownwindfilm.

STAN: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the film or yourself?

ANDIE: This is very much a passion project and a labor of love. We’ve been backed by organizations such as New Orleans Film Festival, Warner Media, Campaign for Southern Equality, Cucalorus Film Festival and Blue Ridge Pride. As a Southern story made by and for the Southern LGBT+ community, I’m so grateful that you’ve even taken the time to read this Q + A, and thank you so much for your support of this project!

STAN: Thank you for spending this time with me, and I wish you the best in securing funding completing this wonderful project.

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Do consider supporting this film’s production by contributing to their crowdfunding campaign or emailing [email protected].