Introducing himself as “an uncle, a sports nut, a CEO, a lover of the beautiful Utah outdoors and a proud gay American,” Cook took the stage Saturday at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium to introduce one of the evening’s headlining acts, Imagine Dragons.
“I’ve come to deliver a simple message that I want every LGBTQ person to hear and believe,” the 57-year-old told the crowd of more than 30,000, as seen in the video above. “You are a gift to the world, a unique and special gift just the way you are. Your life matters.”
“My heart breaks when I see kids struggling to conform to a society or family that doesn’t accept them, struggling to be what someone else thinks is normal,” he went on. “‘Normal’ just might be the worst word ever created.”
“Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day,” he wrote at the time. “It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry.”
Cook’s inclusive remarks on Saturday were particularly fitting given the LoveLoud Festival’s aims. Conceived by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds, the daylong event benefits LGBTQ advocacy groups, including Encircle and the Trevor Project.
“Music speaks to people in a way that breaks down boundaries that words and actions sometimes can’t,” Reynolds, who was raised in the Mormon church, told HuffPost of his vision for the 2018 festival. “Especially in today’s climate, it’s more important than ever for musicians to speak up... If you’re not doing anything, well, then you don’t deserve to be where you are.”