Rachel had ear surgery yesterday so she is home with me today. She is checking her twitter and she exclaimed, “It is Election Day mommy!” I wish all Americans were as excited as she is. Today is Election Day. I love election day for more reasons than it means the end of political phone calls, mailers and commercials. I love election day because I believe it is a miracle that we vote in an orderly, civilized fashion in our country. It is your right, privilege and honor to vote in this the greatest country in the world. Around the globe many people do not have this opportunity, this right or privilege. Many who do have the opportunity vote in fear or are coerced. Voting is not civilized in many, many places. So today on this election day, please vote. Regardless of your political affiliation or convictions, I say VOTE! Part of what makes America great is this melting pot of thoughts and ideas.
Part of this right and privilege also involves educating yourself, as best you can, on the issues and the people making promises to be your voice. As evidenced by the commercial airways, mailbox and telephone, potential candidates are telling you how they are different from who and what you see currently holding office. Others tell you all of the opponent’s bad traits. Some twist voting records and statements to fit their claims. It is hard to get an accurate picture. Find a way to research who best represents your priorities and convictions and the issues you care about. I like to listen and read many different opinions and actually look at voting records.
After you vote and once these elections are over, you can exercise your right to contact your newly elected officials. Whether they be the incumbent or a new face and whether you voted for the winner or not, he or she represents you and works for YOU! Before I was old enough to vote, I learned about citizenship and advocacy through the 4-H Youth Development program. Yes, a girl from the Joy 4-H Club in White County Arkansas got hands-on, in person advocacy training and had the opportunity to visit with Congressman and Senators and even meet and interact with the Governor. I didn’t know then how important those skills would be almost 40 years later when I fix my heart on passing legislation that benefits not just my daughter, but hundreds of thousands of individuals with disabilities and their families.
Regardless of the outcome of the elections, there is much work to be done on behalf of Rachel and others with intellectual disabilities. On the state and federal levels, we have plenty to discuss with our elected representatives. IDEA (Individuals’ with Disabilities Education Act) is due for re-authorization. We need our fair share of funding from NIH. The Seclusion and Restraint issue makes the hair on my arms stand up. There are issues with fairness in transplants for individuals with disabilities. As my friend, Mark Leach pointed out in his blog yesterday, most of our states still need to pass The Down Syndrome Information Act.
Of course the issue foremost in our house is the issue of that pink house, the ABLE Act of 2013. Almost eight years of hard work, lots of discussions with our officials and their offices and many trips to The Hill have brought us to where we are now. Next week, Congress will re-open in a lame duck session. Congressional champions, self-advocates and Down syndrome advocates are all pushing for Congress to push the ABLE Act across the finish line. So you better believe that win or lose, my two United States Senators and my United States Congressman will be hearing from me and I will be asking them to help us with this push. The ABLE Act is the right thing to do regardless of political outcomes.
Rachel has had the honor of meeting and interacting with her United States Senators, her Congressman and her Governor. She considers them friends. That’s how it should be. She has been living an ongoing life lesson in citizenship and advocacy. Rachel believes she is getting her pink house. And so do. I!