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Jul 12 2012

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They met online and changed the world

See you there.

Maybe you could too?

Queens-Politics has the honor to announce the wedding of Mr. Michael Serao and Mr. Jonathan Bench.

If you are not very careful, you can lose yourself in the dark underworld of local politics. You could study political science, and you could have the makings of an enlightened statesman, but when push comes to shove, most politics just isn’t pretty no matter how it’s described.

Sounds cynical, right? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not too shocking, but when something really exceptional happens, something that reveals our humanity, our common bond and  our love for one another – you don’t miss the chance to write about it.

My friend Michael is getting married and it’s far more newsworthy than pictures of sultry soda cans or the ineptitude at the BOE.

Allow me to explain. A successful businessman with a civic spirit, many people presumed Michael would opt for political office, but he didn’t (even if the chance presented itself). Instead, he chose a higher path that earned him the respect from neighborhoods across Queens. Michael is an activist, a humanitarian, and a strong voice in the community. Above all else, he’s a volunteer and it reflects in his philanthropy. Over the years he’s given thousands of dollars of self-made wealth anonymously to many organizations. “There was no need for public credit if your intent is to truly do good,” he said. On the weekends you will find him volunteering time to service organizations, often in a leadership capacity – yet he’s still willing to roll up his sleeves to get the job done.

Michael met Jonathan five years go. Both realized they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, and I’m sure at some point they both knew their reception should be magical, tasteful yet delicate – a scene from Shakespeare if you will, but the timing wasn’t quite right. Gay Marriage wasn’t legal yet, and so the couple waited until the frustration began to hurt, after all, why were they denied an inalienable right the rest of us had?

In retrospect, he was sort of taken back that gay marriage was a problem for such a long time. He mentioned multiple political scandals and criminal activity that went ignored while the media focused on the brain-farts of gay marriage opponents. Civic discourse took a sharp right turn and it was very discouraging. But Michael, ever the fighter, stood up in protest. “The people’s fears were misplaced – we watched in horror as both gay marriage opponents and straight supporters embezzled money from numerous non profits and political campaigns while the pundits cried that we didn’t have the right. It made people worry about the gays but meanwhile we are the ones who donate the money.”

A valid point since the LGBT community can flood a campaign with big donations.

A year later, New York would see the Speaker of the city Council, Christine Quinn tie the knot in what was arguably one of the most politically infused wedding spectacles of all time. But something was missing from the festivities. A sprinkle of charity could have made it worth the grandeur. Being curious, I asked, “Michael, which wedding will be better. Quinn’s or yours?” He smiled and replied as if I should have known all along. ”I would say mine because as part of our favors we made a donation to a much-needed LGBT Cause, The Trevor Project – her wedding was just an election stunt for her mayoral campaign to seek support from the LGBT Community.”

One thing is certain, it will be very different from what we witnessed at Christine Quinn’s wedding. Of the 500 guests no political hacks were invited, but there will be a surprise guest and a performance. To an outsider, you will find it difficult to understand that sitting next to friends and family will be the righteous persons of civic activism – those that lead, those that volunteer, those that opt out of the public spotlight from any sort of recognition while they do God’s work here in Queens.

With fall colors, flowers and table linens from Cress Flowers, and photos by Michele Kawka, if you didn’t receive an invitation, you may have lost sight of your own humanity. Politics isn’t just about elections and showmanship, it’s about helping one another through our personal success and rationing our ambition. It’s about investing trust (and maybe a few bucks) to candidates that believe in a cause and then holding their feet to the fire. Maybe they haven’t changed the world yet, and maybe their mission is yet to be discovered, but Michael and Jonathan are already symbolic of the American dream.  We have much to learn from them.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/07/they-met-online-and-they-changed-the-world/


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