Shepard urged gay students in the audience to be courageous and tell their stories, to be open about their sexuality, and to be proud of who they are. "You need to show them who you are, that you're just like them"the only difference is who you love," she said. When people can relate, they will be more accepting and understanding, she says.
Shepard mixed personal accounts of her tragic loss with political calls for action. She urged the audience to be informed voters and to make sure that legislators know what their constituents want. She spoke in favor of anti-bullying policies in schools. She also supported gay marriage, which she called a "civil rights issue."
Returning to the personal, she recalled the time, in the early 1990s, when her son asked her about gay marriage. "I said, 'You know, Matt, I just don't see it happening in my lifetime. Maybe in yours, not in mine.' It turns out it's happened in my lifetime, not his."
"Matthew is no longer with us because two men learned"they learned"that it was okay to hate," she said. Now Shepard spends her life sharing lessons of love and respect.