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Thiel: ‘I Am Proud to Be Gay. I Am Proud to Be a Republican’

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel addressed the Republican National Convention (RNC) on Thursday night and declared: “I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American.”

The crowd roared in applause and leapt to its feet in a prolonged standing ovation, shouting: “U-S-A!”

Thiel’s words — and the convention’s reactions — were historic, signifying the GOP’s embrace of gays and lesbians in the era of Donald Trump.

It was a process that began in earnest in the heyday of Andrew Breitbart, who pushed conservatives to include gay Republicans in the annual CPAC gathering. It has continued in the media activism of Breitbart News’ Milo Yiannolpoulos, and reached its zenith on Thursday with Trump in Cleveland.

But Thiel, who became a billionaire after co-founding PayPal, did not dwell on sexuality. His message was about innovation — and how America had lost its inspiration.

The 48-year-old Thiel recalled his childhood in Cleveland, where his family immigrated from Germany when he was an infant, and the country seemed to be in the throes of constant innovation:

It’s hard to remember this, but our government was once high tech, too. When I moved to Cleveland, defense research was laying the foundations for the Internet. The Apollo program was just about to put a man on the moon—and it was Neil Armstrong, from right here in Ohio.

The future felt limitless.

But today our government is broken. Our nuclear bases still use floppy disks. Our newest fighter jets can’t even fly in the rain. And it would be kind to say the government’s software works poorly, because much of the time it doesn’t even work at all.

When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom.

Thiel also took a swipe at the Iraq War and interventionist foreign policy (a comment perhaps even more unthinkable at the RNC, just a few years ago, than his declaration that he is gay):

Instead of going to Mars, we have invaded the Middle East. We don’t need to see Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails: her incompetence is in plain sight. She pushed for a war in Libya, and today it’s a training ground for ISIS. On this most important issue, Donald Trump is right. It’s time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country.

He concluded with a call to unity:

I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.

And nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.

While it is fitting to talk about who we are, today it’s even more important to remember where we came from. For me that is Cleveland, and the bright future it promised.

When Donald Trump asks us to Make America Great Again, he’s not suggesting a return to the past. He’s running to lead us back to that bright future.

Tonight I urge all of my fellow Americans to stand up and vote for Donald Trump.

Thiel has put his money where his mouth is, founding Palantir, which works with the government to develop innovative new technologies for defense and intelligence. Despite that involvement in the high-tech “military-industrial complex,” Thiel is known for his anti-war and libertarian views, and was an active supporter of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), as well as an early supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). He has also been on the front lines of the battle for free speech on campus for decades.

In the 1990s, he co-wrote The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford with future PayPal colleague David O. Sacks. In 2014, his address to students at the University of California Berkeley was interrupted by a Black Lives Matter protest — ironically, the same week the university observed the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement.

Given those long-standing interests, Thiel raised eyebrows by funding Hulk Hogan’s defamation lawsuit against Gawker. He took heat from critics who described the lawsuit as an assault on press freedom. But Thiel, who felt Gawker had invaded his private life by exposing his homosexuality, called the Gawker lawsuit “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done.” Yiannopoulos agreed, saying Thiel had “saved free speech” on the Internet: “he has perhaps done more than any man to liberate social media from the terror of left-wing public shaming that prevailed in the golden age of Gawker.”

Thiel does not seek the limelight, and only re-emerged into public life with the publication of his successful book on startups, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.

He caused a stir when he was named as a Trump delegate from California — before Cruz had thrown in the towel, and given Trump effective control of the slate. His decision to “come out” as a Trump Republican has caused more controversy in Silicon Valley than his decision to “come out” as gay at the Republican National Convention.

Both decisions took courage — and Thiel brought them together, to brilliant effect, Thursday night.

Thiel’s full remarks are as follows, checked against delivery:

Good evening. I’m Peter Thiel.

I build companies and I support people who are building new things, from social networks to rocket ships.

I’m not a politician.

But neither is Donald Trump.

He is a builder, and it’s time to rebuild America.

Where I work in Silicon Valley, it’s hard to see where America has gone wrong.

My industry has made a lot of progress in computers and in software, and, of course, it’s made a lot of money.

But Silicon Valley is a small place.

Drive out to Sacramento, or even just across the bridge to Oakland, and you won’t see the same prosperity. That’s just how small it is.

Across the country, wages are flat.

Americans get paid less today than ten years ago. But healthcare and college tuition cost more every year. Meanwhile Wall Street bankers inflate bubbles in everything from government bonds to Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees.

Our economy is broken. If you’re watching me right now, you understand this better than any politician in Washington. And you know this isn’t the dream we looked forward to. Back when my parents came to America looking for that dream, they found it—right here in Cleveland.

They brought me here as a one-year-old, and this is where I became an American.

Opportunity was everywhere.

My Dad studied engineering at Case Western Reserve University, just down the road from where we are now. Because in 1968, the world’s high tech capital wasn’t just one city: all of America was high tech.

It’s hard to remember this, but our government was once high tech, too. When I moved to Cleveland, defense research was laying the foundations for the Internet. The Apollo program was just about to put a man on the moon—and it was Neil Armstrong, from right here in Ohio.

The future felt limitless.

But today our government is broken. Our nuclear bases still use floppy disks. Our newest fighter jets can’t even fly in the rain. And it would be kind to say the government’s software works poorly, because much of the time it doesn’t even work at all.

That is a staggering decline for the country that completed the Manhattan Project. We don’t accept such incompetence in Silicon Valley, and we must not accept it from our government.

Instead of going to Mars, we have invaded the Middle East. We don’t need to see Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails: her incompetence is in plain sight. She pushed for a war in Libya, and today it’s a training ground for ISIS. On this most important issue, Donald Trump is right. It’s time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country.

When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom.

This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?

Of course, every American has a unique identity.

I am proud to be gay.

I am proud to be a Republican.

But most of all I am proud to be an American.

I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.

And nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.

While it is fitting to talk about who we are, today it’s even more important to remember where we came from. For me that is Cleveland, and the bright future it promised.

When Donald Trump asks us to Make America Great Again, he’s not suggesting a return to the past. He’s running to lead us back to that bright future.

Tonight I urge all of my fellow Americans to stand up and vote for Donald Trump.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, will be published by Regnery on July 25 and is available for pre-order through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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