Ric Grenell remembers listening to a speaker at the Republican National Committee in Houston in 1992 and being told that gay people were not welcome in the Republican Party.
Almost 30 years later he became the first openly gay person to serve in a presidential Cabinet when he became acting director of national intelligence in 2020.
Grenell accepted the "Game Changer" award Saturday at the Log Cabin Republicans', a group that represents LGBT conservatives and straight allies, "Spirit of Lincoln" gala.
"This is a truly historic moment," Grenell said as he accepted his award from his former boss, President Donald Trump in front of over 600 guests at the Mar-a-Lago Club.
Before Grenell had a chance to thank Trump, who he called "the greatest president who has ever lived." Trump praised Grenell, the Log Cabin Republicans, and his wife, Melania, who was also recognized at the event.
"There's been no better spokesman, not just for the people in this room, but for the people in our country," Trump said of Grenell.
He called Grenell a "truly brave person" who had "great courage."
During the Trump administration, Grenell also served as the U.S. ambassador to Germany and as the special presidential envoy for Serbia and Kosovo peace negotiations.
The Log Cabin Republicans selected Grenell as the "Game Changer" award recipient for going "above and beyond the call of duty to effectively champion the cause of LGBT conservatives and substantially improve the trajectory of our movement."
They noted, in addition to becoming the first openly gay man to serve in a Cabinet-level position, he also championed Trump's campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality internationally.
Grenell attributed his success to the "hard work and dedication" so many people in the room have contributed to advance causes meaningful to the Log Cabin Republicans.
"I stand here tonight on the shoulders of so many of you in this room," he said.
He also pointed out Trump did not appoint him to his Cabinet so he could "get some award or make a statement."
"He appointed me to serve this country," Grenell said.
Other award recipients included former first lady Melania Trump, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, and Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. Honorees gave speeches in between the crowd erupting into "USA!" chants and calls for Trump to run again in 2024.
Melania Trump said she was humbled to receive the "Spirit of Lincoln" award for her BE BEST initiative she championed as first lady.
Through various awareness campaigns, she encouraged children to simply be their best while "uniting people and taking a stand against bullies and labels."
She told the crowd to remember to "stay true to yourself" in a world that often "feels like it's full of anger."
Accepting the "Majority Maker" award via video, McDaniel was recognized as an ally of the Log Cabin Republicans for her work in building a diverse bench of Republican candidates nationwide.
In her video acceptance, she announced the RNC was launching the "Pride Coalition," which will "invest in communities and mobilize support for the upcoming midterms."
The final award, the "Congressional Champion Award" was presented to Stewart for his advocacy in proposing and backing the "Fairness for All" act, which bans discrimination in many forms and provides for religious exemptions.
"If I do nothing else in my time in Congress it will be worth it if we pass this legislation and get it to the president's desk," he said.
The Log Cabin Republicans also announced the launch of Outspoken Middle East, a news and information platform, with translations in Farsi and Arabic, with "a team of LGBTQ+ citizen journalists in Tehran, Kabul, Beirut, and around the region and world to tell human stories about the realities of being gay in parts of the world that liberals and corporations have left behind."
While there was no shortage of applause throughout the evening, the loudest roar from the attendees came as Trump told Grenell: "I have a feeling we will be doing it again."
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