White House adviser Valerie Jarrett called the recent string of gay teens bullied to death “a terrible tragedy.”

Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama, spoke Saturday night to an estimated 3,100 people attending the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) 14th annual National Dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C.

The 53-year-old Jarrett said the president had asked her to deliver a message on his behalf.

“Recently, we've all been shocked and heartbroken by the deaths of several young people who had been harassed and bullied for being openly gay – or because people thought they were gay. It's a terrible tragedy. And it has turned a harsh spotlight on an issue that often doesn't get the public attention it deserves. The struggles of LGBT youth. The enormous pain that too many experience as a result of bullying. And the desperate, tragic decision by some young people who feel that their only recourse is to take their own lives.”

“No young person should have to endure a life of relentless taunts and harassment, just because they're gay,” she added. “On behalf of President Obama, I want to make clear that this administration is firmly committed to working with you and other advocates.”

Speaking to the crowd last year, Obama reiterated his campaign promise to repeal “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the law that bans gay troops from serving openly. And several gay groups and bloggers had criticized HRC officials for inviting a high-ranking Obama official to speak at this year's event so soon after Democrats failed to move legislation in the Senate that would conditionally repeal the 1993 law.

Writing at AmericaBlog.com, influential blogger John Aravosis blamed the president for the failure: “Obama … sat back while the legislation died in the Senate. He didn't make one God damn phone call to even one senator the day the DADT compromise was filibustered to death [by Republicans]. But that same day our self-proclaimed 'fierce advocate' did find time to phone a women's basketball team.”

Celebrities attending the event included Pink, Ricky Martin and Bette Midler.