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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Aaron's Stepdown Speech: The Best is Yet to Come

by Mr. San Diego Leather 2012 Aaron Duke
on Saturday, August 24, 2013, 
at the end of Aaron's term as a titleholder:

1. Here is the video of the first part of Aaron's step-down speech.
2. Here is the link to the video that showed how Aaron's title year went
3. Here is the video of the last part of Aaron's step-down speech.
4. Another link to Aaron's speech.

Good evening, my brothers and sisters. How are y’all doing?

Tonight, I want to talk to you about dreams. Yes, Walt Disney WAS right. All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

Nine years ago, I was having coffee with my friend, Mike Harrell. I was going on and on about the tragedy called my life. It was very dramatic. I assure you. He said to me, “Aaron, you speak as though the best has already happened to you. I am here to tell you, the best is yet to come.” Since that moment, having dreams and setting goals has become a way of life for me. We don’t get to set goals if we don’t have dreams.

This years has truly been a dream come true. I thank you all for believing in me and being a part of the dream. I have wanted to be a leather titleholder since I was 18 years old. People told me that I never would, because I didn’t fit into their predefined box of what a titleholder is and isn’t. They had notions that one must look the right way, act the right way, read the right books, attend the right conferences, know the right people, and the list of rights could go on and on. I almost didn’t run for this title, because I had allowed others to define what being a titleholder is and isn’t. Others of you reminded me, the Best is yet to come. I don’t fit into your box. I have never fit into any box my whole life. This is my journey. What I have been is authentic and real. I have worn my leather heart on my sleeve. I have been an inspiration for others and let them know, the best is yet to come.

I never dreamed in a million years, that LGBT weekly would plaster my face up on the cover of their magazine. You know you are famous when, picture this, a homeless man, you know, one of the ones with a shopping cart, stops you as says, “You are mister leather. Can I get a hug?” It is important to have people around you that keep you grounded. I shared this story with Wish. She reminded me that he probably used my face to wipe his ass. I have started flagging brown on the right now.

Having a title is an honor and a responsibility. I am more than a pretty face. My dream is to be a leader. Three hundred and sixty five days ago, I was told that as a titleholder, I am a representative of the community, but not a leader of the community. I have to disagree. Leadership is a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. Leadership is organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal. Leaders possess situational interaction, function, behavior, power, vision, values, and charisma. I believe this describes me. What do you think?

Once again, I had to sit down a couple of weeks ago and define what my dreams and goals are for after the sash. How am I truly to be effective? What is my next phase? How will I serve my brothers and sisters in ways that have yet to be imagined? How do I let everyone else know, the best is yet to come.

Our community is a living organism and has been changing and evolving since its creation. We MUST change and evolve with it. Instead of pining for what it “use to be like”, embrace what it is today, and what it can be tomorrow. Spend more time talking about what is right with our community today and less time talking about what is wrong. Yes, our leather bars are not filled to capacity with men dripping in dead cow and public sex. We have found other ways to connect with one another when the bars are closed. We have created events that allow us to socialize with one another and build community. We have plenty of groups that support kinky people in different capacities. So, tell me, what have we done wrong here? It seems to me, the best is yet to come.

We often get caught up with talking about how our community needs education. While I do agree this is very important, our current model of lecture style education is not effective. Did you get that? By a show of hands, how many of you learned to perform oral sex for the first time by attending a one hour lecture by a self-proclaimed expert? No, you learned by doing. Therefore, I will focus my educational efforts on creating events where people can learn BDSM techniques in an hands-on environment. This might include one-on-one sessions, small groups, or a weekend of hands on training. With the emphasis being on having fun. It you aren’t having fun, you ain’t doing it right.

One of my dreams was to launch a mental health campaign geared towards our community and to be able to present this around the country. I have been able to start to present this program and engage communities in this discussion. From time to time, each of us has experienced some sort of mental health challenge, but for some, this is a way of life. Rather than ignoring and further isolating our brothers and sisters, we need to work to integrate them into our community. We engage them in ways that will improve our community while raising their self-esteem. We all have felt this way. We all desire a place and purpose in our community. We all deserve to know, the best is yet to come.

To our new Mr. and Ms. San Diego Leather 2013, this is your title year. It does not belong to someone else. Don’t listen to the people that tell you what you should do. Do what you want to do. At the end of the year, all you have left is the memories. They will have more significant meaning if they are the ones you made. Dream your own dreams. Set your own goals. Make your own journey. I am here today to tell you, the best is yet to come.

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