Saturday, December 13, 2014

An open letter to Senator Harkin

Dear Senator Harkin:

As you are about to start the next chapter in your life, I would like to give you  something to think about and work on. How about that? Not a thank you letter. Not a-you-will-be-missed-letter, but a to-do letter! I can do that because I am 70, retired, am president of United States International Council on Disabilities, and have a sense of urgency. I started my congressional staff career working for Democrat Congressman Paul Simon of Illinois in the summer of 1980. After the fall election, Austin Murphy, Paul Simon's replacement for the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Select Education, let me go. I was hired by his Republican counterpart and worked for Republicans thereafter. In 1980 I met Bobby Silverstein and our paths have been intertwined ever since. I was Bill Frist's staff director when you relinquished the chairmanship of the Senate Subcommittee on Disability Policy to him in 1995.

In the past there has always been a great deal of bi-partisanship on disability legislation. It must be restored. You could help make that happen. You are being heralded as the last great champion on disability rights. We need more champions, many champions in Congress. You could help make that happen. Each chairman/woman and each ranking member of each congressional committee that touches the lives of persons with disabilities should be our champion. You could help make that happen. The Senate and the House should not continue to assume that it is appropriate or effective to let one person do all the heavy lifting on disability matters. So many took a walk on ratification of the CRPD. 

People with disabilities, their families and friends belong to more than one political party. They vote. They work for candidates. They contribute to campaigns. They represent a substantial component of the population.  Their issues are everyone's issues -- jobs, health care, education, housing, economic prosperity. You could help them get organized, form a PAC and strengthen their voice.

We are the senior generation. We have an obligation to speak candidly with each other and to others, and do the things necessary to help the next generations have a bright future.

Thank you.

Patricia Morrissey