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The unsung gay heroes who quietly revolutionized society prove that ordinary people can make extraordinary change.

Author of instant New York Times bestseller Secret City | Tablet Magazine columnist | Award-winning journalist

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No one is too ordinary to change the world. The biggest social revolution of our time—the transformation of gay people from oppressed minority to equal members of society—was brought about not only by public activists, but also by the quiet, tireless work of gay people behind the scenes. Award-winning journalist and essayist James Kirchick chronicles the sweeping history of this positive change, highlighting the stories of unsung gay heroes, in his instant New York Times bestseller Secret City. If we stand up for our right to express ourselves freely, James says, we’ll create a world where no one has to live a lie: “the story of the secret city is the story of openness triumphing over concealment.”

James Kirchick is the instant New York Times bestselling author of Secret City, a magisterial history of the gay subculture in Washington, D.C.—how it survived underground, and how its unsung heroes fought for acceptance in a world stacked against them. There has never been a book like Secret City: one that surveys the broad sweep of 20th century American politics through a gay lens. James expertly brings the era and its characters—from spies to White House aides—to life with vivid anecdotes and meticulous research, giving us the guidebook and tools that we need to effect equally powerful social change. Ultimately, James proves that transparency and open debate were the most crucial elements in this social revolution—today, he says, freedom of expression remains “the greatest tool oppressed minorities have to secure their equal place in society.”

With Secret City, Kirchick will be catapulted into the ranks of those journalists whose work will be read for generations.New York Sun

Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington skyrocketed onto the New York Times bestseller list, garnering praise from all quarters. In a starred review, Booklist called it “an inspiring and overdue tribute to the brave individuals who fought for acceptance in a city and government long pitted against them.” The Washington Examiner said that “It is, in many ways, one of the most human works of history written this decade so far. Secret City has raised the bar for the genre.” By looking back on how far we’ve come since barely a lifetime ago, James inspires us to go further, showing us how we too can play a role in securing a fair and just society for everyone.

James’s first book, The End of Europe, examined the challenges Europe is facing, including rising anti-Semitism and nationalism. Leading political science scholar Robert Kagan called it “a powerful, penetrating, and elegant analysis of the present state of Europe.” James is a columnist for Tablet Magazine and a contributing writer for Air Mail, as well as a Nonresident Senior Fellow for the Europe Center at the Atlantic Council. He has reported on issues of human rights, gay rights, politics, and culture from over 40 countries, and has received the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s Journalist of the Year award. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, and The Atlantic, to name a few.


We invited Jamie to address our partners and summer associates for Pride Month. For an hour, he mesmerized us with fascinating stories from Secret City, making the material both riveting and accessible. His talk was both moving and memorable, and afterwards, multiple people told me that it was the best presentation they had seen in our series. It is impressive that Jamie's oral presentation rivals his talent as a writer, and he is gifted in bringing the material to life in a way that feels relevant and meaningful to people from all walks of life.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

James' participation at the Mississippi Book Festival was vital and instructive to festival-goers about how we can give people the necessary space to have constructive conversations centered around differing opinions. James modeled a generous yet unflinching ability to have a discussion that seems lost on most citizens in our country. We look forward to hosting him again in the future and opening the eyes of even more festival-goers.

Mississippi Book Festival

Jamie Kirchick has actively participated with the Oslo Freedom Forum for a decade, informing our global audience with his unique and useful perspective on subjects ranging from transnational oppression of at-risk gay populations to the nefarious activities of Western consulting firms which lobby on behalf of dictatorial regimes. The breadth of Jamie’s professional experience as well as his ability to deliver a speech that both educates and entertains makes him a uniquely powerful speaker, and we are grateful to have him as an ally.

Human Rights Foundation

Speech Topics

Social Justice
Secret CityThe Quiet Heroes Who Fought for Gay Rights

Until a few decades ago, even the suggestion that someone could be gay ruined lives and reputations. Today, gay people can participate fully in many of the areas where they once were forced to live a lie. How did we get to this point so rapidly? In this talk based on his instant New York Times bestselling book Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington, award-winning journalist James Kirchick discusses the many ways in which the fear of homosexuality impacted American politics and the transformative role freedom of expression played in overcoming that fear. He draws from the many fascinating stories and discoveries contained in his book—hailed by the New York Times as “a luxurious, slow-rolling Cadillac of a book”—to open America’s closet door.

After hearing from Jamie, you will have a broader perspective on 20th century American history, gain a more nuanced understanding of figures and events you thought you knew (from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan), take inspiration from the book’s heroes, and see your own role in securing a fair and just society.

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Politics & Society
The End of EuropeDemocracies in Crisis, and How to Recover

Once the world’s bastion of liberal, democratic values, Europe is now having to confront demons it thought it had laid to rest. The resurgence of nationalism, racism, and anti-Semitism contribute to a looming crisis that threatens to tear Europe apart. Drawing on the extensive firsthand reporting contained in his book The End of Europe, bestselling author James Kirchick shines a light on the conflicts that rage in Europe. Jamie’s keen analysis will help you make sense of the often-complicated world politics as they play out.

This insightful talk illuminates how the crisis in Europe mirrors the one in America—with democracy and liberal values in decline, how can we find our way back? This talk is a call to action, not only for Europeans, but for anyone looking to keep democracy strong in the years to come.

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