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Reflections on the State of the Union Address
By: T.J. Sutcliffe, Director of Income and Housing Policy for The Arc
Americans across the nation, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families, tuned in for President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address.
Here are five highlights that people with I/DD and their families will want to know about:
- Remembering San Bernardino — One of President Obama’s guests at SOTU was Ryan Reese, partner to Larry “Daniel” Kaufman who was one of the 14 victims of the December 2 attack at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, CA. Daniel was a job coach for people with disabilities who lost his life after saving four people. As we tuned in to SOTU, our hearts were with Ryan, Daniel, and all of the victims in San Bernardino, their families, loved ones, and community.
- Disability affects us all, and we are stronger together — At the White House, Vice President Joe Biden kicked off the SOTU watch party. In his remarks, the Vice President shared an inspiring story about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) highlighting the need for us all to work together. After now-deceased Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) rejected a precursor of the ADA, then-Senator Biden was very angry with Senator Helms and thought the worst of him. But then he learned that Senator Helms and his wife had adopted a child with a disability. The Vice President summed up, “It’s always appropriate to question another man or woman’s judgment, but it’s never appropriate to question their motive,” because you just don’t know.
- Our lifeline: Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and SSI — We couldn’t agree more with President Obama about this: “That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them.”
- Lois Curtis, a disability rights champion — One of the “voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far” highlighted on video as President Obama spoke was Lois Curtis, one of two named plaintiffs in the landmark ADA case Olmstead v. L.C. It was amazing to see Lois, a fierce advocate for people with disabilities, featured along with civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Alice Paul, and Cesar Chavez.
- A SOTU for everyone — We thank the White House for making this the most accessible SOTU ever for people with disabilities.
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