Happy Thanksgiving 2014! This is a reprint from last Thanksgiving. As you read you will think, are you sure? Yep -still waiting on the ABLE Act to pass. We’ve made progress though. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has assured us it will be voted on in the House next week. Prayers that it will then pass the Senate before they adjourn the following week. Anxiously awaiting that House vote date for next week.
On behalf of Rachel and many others, I want to thank our own Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) for supporting Rachel. They heard us and responded. Rachel considers them friends and we do too! I would then like to thank Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) for being champions of the ABLE Act and people with Down syndrome. Rachel’s Pink House* is within reach.
Little Pink Houses Make Us Able To Give Thanks (Reprinted from 11-27-13)
I must admit that these past few days I have struggled with some things that have caused me not to have an attitude of gratitude. Without going into those issues, there are a few other issues that could cause me to really get in a funk. For example, I could be very irritable that the ABLE Act of 2013 has more bipartisan support than any bill on the Hill and it is STILL not going to the floor. Or maybe my attitude could be spoiled because we’ve been trying to get this bill, a fair bill that is fiscally responsible and the right thing to do, to the floor for a vote for too many years. I could also be in a funk because friends I’ve never met on Facebook are having to file lawsuits to get their children in general education classrooms. IDEA was passed in 1975 folks. I could be in a funk because Rachel wants to live in a pink house. Period. Maybe the funk is induced because she might want to be a Kansas Jayhawk instead of an Arkansas Razorback. The latter actually brings more disappointment to my dear husband Jonathan than me.
I believe happiness is a choice though. In my book there aren’t many character traits more desirable than being grateful and giving thanks. I just think it is part of being a good human being and realizing how blessed we are. So today I’m choosing to be thankful. I am thankful that in spite of all of our struggles, we live in the greatest country in the world. I’m thankful for the freedom of speech and the right to vote that allows me to contact media and legislators and plead my/our case. I’m proud that I have the freedom to write a blog and to responsibly say whatever I want to. I thankful that my daughter lives today and not 50 years ago. Today, there is a law that says she has the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). While in may not always be easy and we may always be pushing for more rights, at least we have a law behind us that gives her the opportunity to be in the public school. Fifty years ago that wasn’t true. I am thankful for those parents and self advocates who sacrificed so that Rachel has the rights and opportunities she has today.
I am thankful that Rachel can dream about pink houses and that we can dream with her about going to college. I am thankful that we have the ability and the right to go to our Congressional leaders and say “Rachel wants to live in a pink house. Rachel wants to be a Kansas Jayhawk or Fighting Pickle of NC School of the Arts. We need your help to get there.” I frequently exercise my rights by contacting political offices. It is a right and a privilege that many on planet earth are not afforded. Are you thankful for that right, responsibility and privilege and do you let your voice be heard?
Do you truly understand that freedom is not free? This Thanksgiving I am thankful for the men and women past, present and future and their families who have sacrificed so that I do have these rights, who have sacrificed so that Rachel can dream, who have sacrificed so that you can exercise your freedom of speech even when it differs from mine.
Pity party gone. I am thankful for dreams of pink houses that remind me that I am truly blessed and truly ABLE to be thankful for all that I have.
Pass the turkey and #PasstheABLEAct, please.
* Background: In 2012 Rachel made her first trip to Washington DC as self-advocate. She declared to Senator Moran that he needed to co-sponsor the ABLE Act so she could live in a pink house. It has become the symbol of her march toward independence.