Friday, May 2, 2014

CRPD and Six Degrees of Separation

This is my 70th blog post. When I started last August, August 9th to be specific, I thought perhaps I had six posts in me. Your willingness to read these posts has kept me going. With your support, I will continue until the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is ratified. But I’ll warn you this particular one is a LONG one.

Interest in the CRPD ebbs and flows. I accept that. However, once momentum slows down, it takes tremendous effort to get things going again. The statistics for this blog and for the community Facebook page, RatifyCRPD, indicate that momentum has leveled off, and is starting to drop.

I have said many times that ratification is up to us. That hasn’t changed. But of course, in order to sustain and build momentum we need feedback from the Senate. Other than Senator Harkin, who is an outspoken champion for ratification, and has asked us to give him our stories of about what the CRPD means to us, we have heard little from the Senate. Senator Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has not shared any substantive information about progress with us, only reiterating his unwavering support for the treaty, when he received an award from the MS Society earlier this spring.

I have heard two points to explain the status quo on ratification. First, there are quiet conversations going on between and among senators and the possibility of obtaining additional support for ratification is in the cards. (My count is that we have 61 votes for ratification and we need 6 more.)  Second, this is related to the first, everyone needs to keep a low profile in order to not stir up the opposition to ratification.

Those who support ratification of the CRPD have been asked over and over to contact their senators and urge their support for ratification. 

Occasionally in the last few months we have had big splash events -- one day or one way to reach senators and urge their support for ratification. After such events attention dies down. These events are linear in nature and don't seem to generate a lasting impact in the Senate. Perhaps we could try something multidimensional that requires sustained effort from everyone.

A Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy, is credited with coming up with the idea of six degrees of separation. According to Wikipedia, “Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of ‘a friend of a friend’ statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.”

Well, I propose that we use a slightly modified version of this theory to build sustained momentum and increase investment of people in securing ratification of the CRPD. Our targets should be people who can get the ear of Senators who could contribute the six votes we need for ratification. The three categories of people we need to reach are:

·      Senators who have had a working relationship with Senators who have not taken a position on ratification
·      Veterans who know Senators who have not taken a position on ratification
·      High-level company representatives from companies who have headquarters in states of Senators who have not taken a position on ratification

Each of us could set out to connect with an individual in one of these three groups (i.e., a Senator, a veteran, or company person who knows a Senator who has not taken a position on the CRPD) and once we connect, ask the individual to urge his or her friend, the Senator, to support ratification.

No Senator ignores the advice from a colleague with whom he or she has worked successfully. No Senator dismisses a veteran, a veteran he or she has helped, come to know, or has spoken of in a speech, press release, or home-state newspaper story. No Senator blows off high-level company officials from a corporation housed in their state. Although it could take up to six tries (six degrees of separation) to reach a Senator, a veteran, or a corporate executive who knows a Senator who has not taken a position on ratification, all we need is the willingness to try.

First we need to make a simple script for ourselves:  why we are making contact, why the CRPD is important, and what we would like the contact to do. There is plenty of information on this blog, at, and to make up a script.

Second, set up our contact plan.

Do we know a contact in states such as – Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, or Wyoming?

If the answer is yes, before we proceed, it would be good to do some research on the Senator on whom we plan to focus – on which committees does he serve, to what caucuses does he belong, on what issues and groups does he give emphasis on his web site, and on what issues does he talk on video clips?

1.  Questions for our contact in the key state: Does he or she know a Senator with whom Senator ___________ (a Senator who have not taken a position on ratification) works well? Does the contact know a veteran who knows the Senator? Does the contact know anyone in a big company in the state? Does that company person know the Senator?

Based on what we learn we would then concentrate on one state, and one Senator, veteran, or corporate representative who knows the Senator who has not taken a position on ratification.

2.  Questions for the contact our contact knows: [Our contact could set up an introduction for us.] After we “drop” our contact’s name and reason for making contact, we would ask the person how he or she knows the Senator (a Senator who have not taken a position on ratification)? If the contact does not know the Senator, doesn’t seem to know the Senator well, or doesn’t want to help us, we would ask the person if he or she knows someone who does.

3.  Questions for first contact who may know the Senator well (a Senator who have not taken a position on ratification): We would ask – How do you know the Senator? If not well, could you recommend someone else who may? Why do you suggest that person?

4.  What the exchange with the second contact, who may know the Senator well, should cover: background on the CRPD; assessment of person’s willingness to share information with the Senator; offer of support and further information; and/or getting the contact information for another person who knows the Senator well.

5.  What the exchange with the third contact, who may know the Senator well, should cover: background on the CRPD; assessment of person’s willingness to share information with the Senator; offer of support and further information.

6.  What the exchange with the fourth contact, who may know the Senator well, should cover: background on the CRPD; assessment of person’s willingness to share information with the Senator; offer of support and further information.

You get it, I know.

It may take only one try to reach someone who would be willing to reach out to a Senator we have chosen to impact. Nonetheless, each contact we make is a potential in-state ally. That is good, not a waste of time. That is why our script is so important – it could persuade people to join the pro-ratification cause. We have multiple chances to find someone to help us.

If each of us commits to reaching just one person who knows a key Senator and who is willing to talk to the Senator about ratification, the momentum we need to rekindle will blossom and the additional Senate votes we need will surface.

I know this is a serious investment of time and effort. We need to make it. We have 86 days till the 24th anniversary of the ADA. We need to secure ratification of the CRPD by then. So, we should start this Monday and do what needs to be done.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Senator Rubio and the CRPD

Senator Rubio is seen as a force to be reckoned within the Republican Party. He has given the Republican response to one of President Obama's State of the Union speeches. He has given major speeches, lasting 30 minutes or more, on foreign policy at both conservative and liberal gatherings, with less than two years in the Senate under his belt. He has joined forces with Democrats on tough issues like immigration reform.

His website focuses on issues like veterans and seniors, emphasizing that we need to do better for and by them.

The three themes that shout out at us through his videos, press releases, and speeches are 1) whether we like it or not, the U.S. is the leader of the world, so we should act like it; 2) the bottom line is freedom and opportunity; by making them more readily available and helping them thrive, we make things better for everyone; and 3) we must never forget and always stay true to the principles on which our country was founded.

Senator Rubio says he has been inspired by his grandfather who had polio, went to work every day, walking some distance, to support his family. He says he has also been inspired by his parents, who emigrated from Cuba, and worked very hard to ensure that Senator Rubio and his siblings had benefits and opportunities that they had not had.

Pundits and friends of Senator Rubio indicate that throughout his political career he has been mentored by Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida. I met Jeb Bush when he was governor. He was giving a speech to a large gathering of disability advocates in Tampa. Before his speech he and I, on a long slow walk down the loading dock behind the Convention Center, talked about how to improve services to families who had children with disabilities with multiple needs, how to increase the employment rate of individuals with disabilities, and what the governor was doing to empower people with disabilities in Florida. When he gave the speech that day, Jeb Bush did not use notes, and yet he shared tons of facts and statistics with those of us in the audience.

I offer this collection of points to make a few more. I hope somewhere in Senator Rubio's brain is stored some thoughts about disability, learned from his grandfather and Jeb Bush, which will breakthrough and cause him to publicly support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of a Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). If Senator Rubio wants the U.S. to refresh its mantle as a world leader, to speak and act in the name of equality, freedom, and human rights, and help open greater opportunities for veterans and seniors, then surely he can support the ratification of the CRPD.

The only substantive objection Senator Rubio has consistently voiced about the CRPD has been to text in one paragraph in Article 25, the article related to health care.  He has said, as is, it would expand abortion rights in the U.S. Since he is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has joined Chairman Menendez on a successful resolution on Syria, I can see no reason why these two Senators cannot find common ground related to Senator Rubio's concern about Article 25.

Senator Rubio has the opportunity to help us achieve ratification of the CRPD. Especially those who live in Florida, those who are veterans, and those who are seniors should seize this moment and ask him to do just that.

Here is his contact information:

Washington DC:  202.224.3041
Orlando:  407.254.2573
Toll free in Florida:  866.630.7173
Tampa:  813.287.5035
Miami:  305.418.8553
Naples:  239.213.1521
Pensacola:  850.433.2603
Palm Beach:  561.775.3360
Tallahassee:  850.599.9100
Jacksonville:  904.398.8586

Twitter:  @marcorubio

Thank you.
Common Grounder