Relaxed, smiling broadly, President Donald Trump likely had no idea what Rhode Island teacher of the year Nikos Giannopoulos was doing just behind his back the moment a special Oval Office photo was snapped. Giannopoulos, sporting a rainbow pin in his lapel, posed with a lacy fan to make a point. Now the photo with him and both Donald and Melania Trump is drawing scads of views on his Facebook page.
Giannopoulos, who teaches 11th and 12th graders at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket, visited the White House with other “teachers of the year” in April. He received the photo of his moment with Trump this week and immediately posted it.
He said he wore the pin “to represent my gratitude for the LGBTQ community that has taught me to be proud, bold, and empowered by my identity — even when circumstances make that difficult.” He brought the fan that day to “celebrate the joy and freedom of gender nonconformity.”
“When I met the president as Rhode Island’s state teacher of the year, I did not know what to expect,” he wrote on Facebook after the photo was taken. “After a lengthy security process, we were welcomed into the Roosevelt Room where we each met Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Shortly thereafter, we walked into the Oval Office. The man seated at the desk read prepared remarks from a sheet of paper and made some comments about CEOs and which states he ‘loved,’ based on electoral votes that he had secured. He did not rise from his seat to present the national teacher of the year with her much-deserved award, nor did he allow her to speak.”
Giannopoulos wanted to speak to the president, but none of the teachers got the chance (though Trump did tell him that he was “very stylish” with his fan as the teachers gathered around the president, Giannopoulos told Yahoo). He had wanted to tell Trump that “queer lives matter and anti-LGBTQ policies have a body count.” Giannopoulos said he also wanted to tell the president how the LGBTQ community is hurt by “politicians callously attacking our right to love or merely exist.”
He said now when he thinks of the day he “will not remember the person seated at the desk.” Giannopoulos said he’ll remember the students he has taught and the other teachers with him that day, including one who presented Trump with letters from her refugee student, “pleading with him to hear their voices.”