Saturday, May 24, 2014

Calling All Veterans

A veteran in 2014 is a positive image for most Americans, and that is a good thing. Much attention in the last few weeks has been on the Department of Veterans Affairs. I hope in sorting out the failure to serve veterans in a timely manner and prevent deaths, Democrats and Republicans will work together. I hope there will be a minimal amount of grandstanding and political posturing. I hope that our elected officials will spend their time looking for ways to make things work. If they do, maybe they will also consider working together to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

When I think of a veteran many words come to mind – bravery, selflessness, courage, compassion, camaraderie, freedom, confidence, problem-solving ability, teamwork. I wish I could pour these words into the brains of senators who have not taken a position on the CRPD yet.

Those senators, some of whom I have written about on this blog, strongly support veterans and want to make things better for them. They listen to veterans. They probably talk straight to veterans. They wouldn't dismiss a request from a vet easily.

This Memorial Day I know there will be a lot of events in which senators participate back home. They will interact with veterans at many of these events. If you are veteran, or family member of a veteran, I hope if you encounter a senator that you will ask them to support the CRPD. The CRPD is based on the principles that veterans have fought for and believe in. These principles know no boundaries and when embraced by the world community, including the U.S., the world would be a better place.

Some objections to Senate ratification of the CRPD are shallow, politically motivated, and do not take into account that -- the only way U.S. will be restored as a true, credible leader in the world community again is if it doesn't put conditions on how it feels about human rights.

If you do get a few minutes with a senator this holiday weekend, I urge you to ask the senator to call for and support the ratification of the CRPD before July 4th. If he or she asks why, here are a few things you might use in an answer --

1. It is difficult for us to challenge the human rights abuses of other nations unless we ratify the CRPD.

2. Clear, strong words have been suggested to recognize, reinforce, and protect our system of government from any words or reports that come from the UN, so let's use them and ratify the CRPD.

3. Americans with disabilities who go overseas, U.S. businesses that manufacture assistive technology, and U.S. policies and expertise on disability rights and accessibility will be sought after and welcomed by the rest of the world.

4.  Ratification of the CRPD would give us an opportunity to begin a national dialogue on how things are and how they could be with regard to people with disabilities. It is not a matter of new laws. It is a matter of better implementation and enforcement of existing laws and proactively reshaping, in a more positive direction, attitudes about people with disabilities.

Whatever you learn from your senator(s), please share it with the veterans' organizations to which you belong. That way we will have a sense of the impact of your effort. Be assured, you, more than many of us, can have the desired effect on senators at this critical time.

God bless every veteran and your family and have a great Memorial Day. You deserve it!

Thank you.
Common Grounder

Monday, May 19, 2014

The CRPD and Answers to Four Questions That Should Influence the Next Move

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has a business meeting scheduled for May 20, 2014. Several pieces of legislation dealing with foreign countries and ambassadorships are on the agenda ( It will be held in S-116 of the Capitol, so stop by if you can.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is not on the agenda. I do not know how often the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has business meetings, but I think the May 20 meeting is a great opportunity for Chairman Menendez of New Jersey to take the pulse of his membership on whether or not they support the CRPD. It's not till 2:15 pm, so give him a call (202.224.4744) and suggest he add it.

 What Chairman Menendez needs to know is four things:

1.  How important ratification is to us.

2.  How many committee members are waiting for a draft resolution before taking a position.

3.  How many members have specific concerns and are either willing to work to resolve concerns with the chairman or have draft language to share with the chairman.

4.  How many members are opposed to the CRPD ratification under any conditions.

I believe the chairman has the votes to get a resolution on the CRPD out of committee. He can share a draft with those who fall under #2.  And, unless he has some members that fall under #3, there is no reason to delay bringing a CRPD resolution up for a committee vote now. We need to seize the moment and get Senators, who are on the fence, to commit.  Of course, we need to contact these fence sitters, once we know who they are, and tell them how we feel.

Thank you.
Common Grounder