David Mixner: Activist Extraordinaire
David Mixner has had quite an interesting life and career. He has shed blood, sweat, and tears as a political activist, an LGBTQ activist, a civil rights activist, and an environmental activist. He has experienced both successes and failures over the past six decades. Various people have been honored by having received recognition in the form of scholarships, trusts, and foundations named after them, due to their accomplishments in society alone. Mixner is a member of that group.
David Mixner’s name is now attached to a CAMP Rehoboth Intern Scholarship. At a recent gathering in the home of Danny Sebright, Mixner made his first trip to Rehoboth to inaugurate this scholarship. Those gathered were spellbound by the stories he shared of his advocacy and activism over the years.
Mixner shared some of his well-earned wisdom. “I love what CAMP Rehoboth stands for. I call the LGBTQ group the Rainbow Community. It is important that we develop new young leadership. It is time, and it is important, that I yield and create room and create hope for the younger generation. It’s nice to be remembered for your journey, and I appreciate that.
“You cannot separate injustices, or the search for justice. We tend to forget the purpose of movements. We tend to get very self-righteous. We tend to demand that before someone is given the honor of joining us, they have to agree to a list of 20 things, and if they disagree with one of them, they cannot join us. The purpose of a movement is to find that 5-10 percent you have in common with others and build on that, even if you disagree with other things. You want to create change.”
A committed activist on many levels, Mixner also operates on a spiritual level. “I’m a liberation theologist. Bishop Oscar Romero said you are put here by God on earth for only one reason—to serve others and to make their lives better. And I have done that for 63 years.
“Jesus would be at CAMP Rehoboth [if he were here today]. He loved everyone. I take my spirituality very personally. I pray that those who are struggling may have their lives improve in some way. My simple prayer is: Dear God, I know that you could put all sorts of challenges in front of me today. However, I know that somewhere in this day there will be one moment of joy. My only request is that you not let me miss it.”
CAMP Rehoboth is fortunate to have such strong connections with this man of vision and purpose. Wes Combs, President of the Board of Directors at CAMP Rehoboth, has known Mixner for 30 years, dating back to when Wes served on the Board of the Human Rights Campaign. Danny Sebright, a major donor for CAMP Rehoboth, graciously hosted this gathering. Mixner and Sebright met in 1993 on the Bill Clinton campaign and have stayed close friends since.
As Kim Leisey, Executive Director of CAMP Rehoboth shared, “A scholarship in David Mixner’s name makes sense for CAMP Rehoboth. President Bill Clinton’s words about him ring true. Clinton said, ‘David’s heart burns with social justice. David has never forgotten where he came from and he suffered the pain of great loss during the AIDS crisis.... David is known for his energy, heart and compassion.’”
One of Mixner’s success stories from his estimable activist career involved meeting with then-Governor Ronald Reagan. They met to discuss Proposition 6, a bill that would remove teaching credentials from any teacher found to be gay or lesbian. Knowing the conservative credentials of Reagan, it seemed like a fool’s errand to try to convince the governor otherwise.
But Mixner did it. Instead of appealing to the heart strings and trying to get Reagan to put gay and lesbian teachers on an even footing with the straight community, Mixner showed him the actual language of the bill. He told Reagan, “Look how they drafted this legislation. If anyone accuses a teacher of being gay, they have to go on trial before the school board. If a student has failing grades, he could make that accusation about the teacher, whether it was true or not. Teachers will live in fear of retribution from their students, and you will have anarchy in the classroom.” Reagan looked closely at the bill and said, “Those stupid [idiots]!” With Reagan now opposed to it, Proposition 6 failed.
There is so much more to David Mixner. He is a man for all reasons—social justice, Rainbow Community, civil rights, the environment. He speaks with the expertise of accomplishments and accolades; he reflects with the experience of failures and tremendous loss of dear friends to AIDS. David Mixner is a man of conviction, compassion and vision. And he is now part of CAMP Rehoboth. ▼
David Garrett, a CAMP Rehoboth Board member, is a straight advocate for equality and inclusion. He is also the proud father of an adult trans daughter. Email David Garrett at email@example.com.