Caitlyn Jenner’s Emotional Acceptance Speech At The ESPY Awards

In Caitlyn Jenner’s first major public appearance since announcing she is transgender, the Olympic gold medalist took the stage at ESPN’s annual awards Wednesday to assume the role of champion yet again, only this time, for a different community.

Accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, Jenner spoke of the many challenging hurdles she has overcome throughout her life as an athlete, and now as one of the most public transgender people in the world:

“It’s been eye-opening, inspiring, but also frightening. All across this country, right now, all across the world, at this very moment, there are young people coming to terms with being transgender. They’re learning that they are different and they are trying to figure out how to handle that, on top of every other problem that a teenager has.

“They’re getting bullied, they’re getting beaten up, they’re getting murdered and they’re committing suicide. The numbers that you just heard before are staggering, but they are the reality of what it is like to be trans today.

“Just last month, the body of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, a transgender young woman of color, was found in a field in Mississippi stabbed to death. I also want to tell you about Sam Taub, a 15-year-old transgender young man from Bloomfield, Michigan. In early April, Sam took his won life. Now, Sam’s story haunts me in particular because his death was a few days before my interview with Diane Sawyer. Every time something like this happens, people wonder, ‘Could it have been different, if spotlighting this issue with more attention could have changed the way things happen?’ We’ll never know.

“If there is one thing I do know about my life, it is the power of the spotlight. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but with attention comes responsibility. As a group, as athletes, how you conduct your lives, what you say, what you do, is absorbed and observed by millions of people, especially young people. I know I’m clear with my responsibility going forward, to tell my story the right way — for me, to keep learning, to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated. And then more prominently to promote a very simple idea: accepting people for who they are. Accepting people’s differences.

“My plea to you tonight is to join me in making these issues your issues as well. How do we start? We start with education. I was fortunate to meet Arthur Ashe a few times and I know how important education was to him. Learn as much as you can about another person to understand them better.

Caitlyn Jenner To Be Arthur Ashe Courage Award Recipient At 2015 ESPYs

Just hours after the world got it’s first glimpse of Caitlyn Jenner, ESPN has announced Caitlyn as the 2015 recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPYs on ABC July 15th.

Almost 40 years ago, Bruce Jenner’s Olympic success came as a result of strengthening both his mind and body leading to his status as one of the world’s greatest athletes, but the decision to publicly come out as a transgender woman took a different kind of courage and acceptance of one’s self.

To celebrate that bravery, ESPN today announced that Jenner will be presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at The 2015 ESPYS Presented by Capital One. Presented annually to individuals whose contributions transcend sports, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is the pinnacle of the sports celebration, which will be televised Wednesday, July 15, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC from Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE.

Jenner’s unyielding resolve and hard work enabled him to win a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics and break world records. He then parlayed that success into a variety of roles across different areas including television, film, auto racing and business. Although Jenner first captured the attention of the nation for his athletic prowess and determination, the same strength of character shone through this past April when he sat down with ABC’s Diane Sawyer to come out as a transgender woman.

“In the past few months, the overwhelming outpouring of support from all over the world for my journey has been incredible,” said Jenner. “However, being honored with this award, which is named after one of my heroes, is truly special. For the first time this July, I will be able to stand as my true self in front of my peers.”

Many will remember out footballer Michael Sam’s moving acceptance speech for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at last year’s ESPYs.

Out NFL-er Michael Sam honored with Arthur Ashe Courage Award at 2014 EPSY Awards

Out NFL player Michael Sam accepts Arthur Ashe Courage Award  - full tribute video and acceptance speech

Preceded by a moving backstory video and followed by an emotional acceptance speech, St. Louis Rams’ Michael Sam was honored at the 2014 ESPY Awards with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

The video package and acceptance speech were perfect for the heroic Michael Sam. The sports world and the LGBT community could not be more proud that this is the journey and story a life can take when a true athlete faces his challenges.

From his speech tonight at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles:

“This year I had a lot of experience being part of something bigger than myself. At times, I felt like I’d been living in a massive storm, … but the lessons learned — love, respect and being true to yourself — will never leave me.”

Quoting Arthur Ashe — “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. Those were the words to live by, whether you’re black or white, young or old, straight or gay. … Football raised me, football taught me about hard work.”

“People tell me that I’m their inspiration. Well you are my inspiration.”

“To anyone out there, especially young people feeling like they don’t fit in and would never be accepted, please know this. Great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.”

Get ready to grab a tissue.  Full tribute video and acceptance speech below: