Remember Will Phillips, the ten-year-old boy from West Fork, Arkansas who decided that he was not going to recite the Pledge of Allegiance until the phrase “with liberty and justice for all” was accurate — that is, until everyone was able to marry the person they love? Young Will was, of course, referring to the issue of marriage equality — more specifically, the lack of marriage equality in this country. Will’s protest garnered international attention after he got in trouble for talking back to a substitute teacher about it — after four days of the teacher trying to force him to stand and recite the pledge, he told her “Ma’am, with all due respect, you can go jump off a bridge.”
Now, however, he’s quite the opposite of being in trouble. In fact, the readers of the AfterElton website have voted Will their Hero of the Year for 2009, beating out such notable competitors as political commentator Rachel Maddow, Lt. Dan Choi, the army officer, Iraq war veteran, and West Point graduate whose homosexuality got him booted from the military, and Bea Arthur who left $300,000 to the Ali Forney Center, an organization that provides shelter to homeless gay and lesbian teens. That would be pretty impressive company for anyone; it is more so for a ten-year-old.
If you watch his interview on CNN, Will appears to be an intelligent boy who thought about what he was being asked to say and rightly concluded that he couldn’t, in good conscience, say it. And when you’re 10 years old and you want the other kids — not to mention the girls — to like you, it can be very, very difficult to stand up (or, in this case, sit down) and do the right thing. I have to say, had I known about this poll in advance, Will Phillips would have gotten my vote too. This honor is certainly well-deserved.