Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Later: JFK’s Lasting Legacy

President Kennedy, 1963: “It was said, in an earlier age, that the mind of a man is a far country which can neither be approached nor explored. But, today, under present conditions of scientific achievement, it will be possible for a nation as rich in human and material resources as ours to make the remote reaches of the mind accessible. The mentally ill and the mentally retarded need no longer be alien to our affections or beyond the help of our communities.”
(Editor’s note: Although the language we use has changed, the hope expressed by President Kennedy remains the same)
simonsJo Ann Simons is a Disability Advisor to the Ruderman Family Foundation and President and CEO of the Cardinal Cushing Centers. She remarked: “As we all have been reminded over and over again about the great national tragedy that our nation endured when President Kennedy was assassinated, I noticed a Facebook entry from Anthony Shriver, the President’s nephew. He wrote about his uncle’s call to service and the great accomplishments of his short presidency in the area of disability. I thought Anthony’s message was one that should be spread and applied to the work we do at the Cardinal Cushing Centers.”
Below is the message Jo Ann sent her staff yesterday…
Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy. While the media will concentrate on the tragedy and what might have been, I will be using the day to reflect upon one of his gifts to the world. President Kennedy ushered in the age of inclusion and acceptance for persons with intellectual disabilities.
Here at the Cardinal Cushing Centers, we bore witness to his future legacy when, in 1957, then Senator Kennedy dedicated Kennedy Hall in memory of his brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. This building was made possible by the generous $400,000 gift from the Kennedy Foundation.
As President, Kennedy signed the first major U.S. legislation to help people with intellectual disabilities at a time when individuals with ID were routinely institutionalized and locked away.
WH/HO Portrait
Photo courtesy of:
Inspired by the challenges in the life of his sister Rosemary, President Kennedy became a pioneering advocate for people with disabilities. He was the first president to welcome a person with intellectual and developmental disability in to the White House. Fueled by the passion of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, he established a President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. Within the National Institute of Health, he created what would become the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institute of Child Health and Human Development. And he supported Mrs. Shriver’s  creation of Special Olympics. In the years following the Kennedy administration, Congress passed 116 acts or amendments providing support for people with intellectual disabilities and their families.
Tomorrow, I will remember exactly where I was on that tragic day but, I also will remember where we are today because President Kennedy dared to be bold. And thankful to all of you for choosing to continue part of his legacy.
I am grateful.
Jo Ann

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Baseball Lessons and The Game of Life


Jon Derr and Boston Police Officer Horgan.
The 2013 World Series is now history, the champagne has been cleaned from the clubhouse floor, the parade is over and the confetti has been swept from the streets of a grateful city. Yet long after the players have dispersed to their non-baseball hometowns and our region's thoughts have turned to Super Bowl and Stanley Club dreams,   conversations continue about this year's victorious  Boston Red Sox. On my long commute each day, I have been listening each morning to sports radio dissecting this historic winning season and the players.

This team had been doubted and demonized and  the fans showed their apathy by ending   the longest sold out attendance streak in Major League Baseball.  Much was said about the  dearth of superstars which have historically been the foundation of a team and its fan base.  Boston's fan base had deteriorated after the team's dismal 2012 season amid talks of beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse.

Someone forgot to tell the baseball players they had been counted out-by their fans, by the Boston sports writers and by baseball.

They had something to prove and they delivered it with a passion and love for the game. Sometimes with a flair for the dramatic-how else can you explain those 9th inning walk off home runs?

They were relentless. They came together as a team with little regard for what others had to say about them.

As I continued to listen to sports radio, I began to think of another team that sounded very much like our 2013 Red Sox. A team that I know very well- families of children with disabilities.
We are relentless in standing up for our children to be included in all aspects of life-education, housing, employment, sports and leisure activities.

We do not care about what others say about us. We know the work that we need to do it and we do it. Too often, very much alone.

When it comes to our children, we might be dreamers but, what parent is not allowed to dream?

Realistic? Do not count our children out. We don't settle for realistic. We set the bar just higher than anyone else thinks it should be. And then we watch with pride when they meet high expectations.

And we prove the pundunts wrong. Every day.

 There will not be champagne when our goals are met.

There will not be a parade for us when we are victorious.

We will not be considered heroes.

 But, each and every day, we do the heroic and while we are not looking for full page ads in the Boston Globe congratulating us for our achievements, awareness, recognition and inclusion by our communities would be nice.

And  more public support and funding.

The 2013 Boston Red Sox made our town better and even in this baseball crazed town,my child makes my life and my community better.
Every single day.