This week for a change, I’m sharing the words of three other individuals that spoke yesterday during the 40th Annual Legislative Reception, held by the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council and The Arc of Massachusetts. We recognized Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Denise Garlick, and ceremony participants included Governor Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senator Karen Spilka. Despite the threat of weather, nearly 200 people joined us – and another 140 people tuned into our Facebook Live, which is still available to watch.
Their inspiring words can only improve the present state of our national dialogue and remind us of the value of the work we all do. It’s work that not only advances opportunity for persons with disabilities, but also helps build a stronger society for all.
Let’s start with Governor Charlie Baker. One of the most important and powerful elements of advocacy “has been this move toward giving folks in the disability community the opportunities and the tools that they need to be fully independent and integrated into the community in which they live. This has been a classic example of persistence, determination, and commitment over a very long period of time to change the conversation, to change the level of expectations, and by doing that, to change the possibilities and the opportunities to people who are part of the developmental disability community.”
Keynote and parent, Angela Ortiz, demonstrated that by stating, “I felt so powerless, until I entered this building. It’s the day I became an advocate. I was equipped with a vision for my daughter, and new tools and the confidence to be a part of some kind of change – to address a burning need that affects her [daughter Ayla’s] life, and so many other medically fragile children and adults in the Commonwealth. That day ignited a flame so deep within me, and I’ve been fired up ever since.”
And Rep. Denise Garlick reinforced the universality of our advocacy: “I accept this award in honor of my daughter Beth, and all the sons and daughters of the Commonwealth. How many people here are sons and daughters? That would be all of us citizens of this Commonwealth – who deserve the same opportunity to love and be loved, to belong, and to have a purpose for a meaningful life, to achieve our own personal potentials.”
And so let’s continue to keep moving the conversation ahead, increase our expectations, and provide opportunities.
Leo V. Sarkissian