Presidential Opening Remarks at USICD’s 2015 Annual Meeting
Dr. Patricia Morrissey, President of USICD’s Board of Directors, delivered the following remarks at the start of USICD’s 2015 annual meeting on October 8. This year, for the first time, USICD’s annual meeting was held entirely by teleconference phone line.
Thank you so much for joining us by phone today. As I understand it, there are at least 50 people on this call. We know your time is valuable and we appreciate the fact that you’re willing to spend a substantial part of your afternoon with us.
When thinking about my opening remarks I was inspired by three things: Pope Francis’ recent visit to the US, the concept of GPS applied to personal actions, and our potential role in the current presidential election cycle.
When Pope Francis came to our hemisphere he emphasized the importance of helping those in need. By focusing on others he felt we would experience both satisfaction and joy. I agree with him. The challenge for us is how to do it. We are drawn together by our interest in disability rights and the role the US can play in the international arena.
This is where the GPS analogy comes in. It offers us multiple ways to target our personal actions. First, on a global scale, through international organizations, we can make contributions to and learn from how things are done in other countries. Second, nationally, we can identify things going well in this country and promote them both here and abroad. Third, in our own state and communities, we can help people do things in a smarter way so that people with disabilities benefit and are fully included. Fourth, through personal relationships, we can help one individual or family that is struggling, by offering advice and support on an ongoing basis, so that their challenges become opportunities. And last, we can take care of ourselves, so that we have the strength and energy to help others.
What does zooming in or out like a GPS system have to do with the presidential cycle? The actions we choose to take between now and Election Day will influence the outcome. We could wait until the dust settles and then became involved with a specific presidential candidate. That is, at the point in time when there was one Democrat candidate and one Republican candidate for president. But, we have more chances to affect the final candidates and their priorities if we join the policy discussion now and work to see that issues that are important to people with disabilities are talked about earlier in the process of selecting final presidential candidates. At this point in the process we as a community should be sharing what matters to us with all candidates – – employment barriers, educational challenges, transportation limitations, the lack of accessible housing options and healthcare – – all things related to the independence of people with disabilities. Elevating these things, discussing them, and exploring their resolution have tremendous value here and around the world.
Of course all these things that I have mentioned could/should be undertaken by each of us as an individual. But, our power and reach are expanded exponentially when we do things with others for others. We have the power to make a difference — at home and abroad, being guided by the simple principle of treating others as we wish to be treated and working together.
USICD’s principal purpose is connecting the US disability community with the wider world. This is such an exciting time for people with disabilities globally, but there is much to be done, and we have to make sure the United States is actively involved. The world looks to us and networks of people with disabilities look to us. USICD is placing a lot of emphasis on building our relationships with disability groups overseas. We want to increasingly include our members in this as we move forward, so I hope today’s discussion sparks your interest and ideas for strengthening our partnerships with our friends overseas.
Now to our plan for today. We will share with you what we have been focusing on in the past year, our plans for the coming year, and the status our financial picture. We have plans that, with your support and help, will allow our organization to grow in visibility and continue to demonstrate our leadership.
In closing, I would like to thank David Morrissey for his tireless efforts to keep us on track and to explore new opportunities; to thank our energetic interns for doing any and everything we ask them to do; to thank Andrea Shettle for running our internship program and taking on new assignments with enthusiasm; to welcome Isabel Hodge on board as our new Deputy Director; and with great appreciation, to acknowledge and greet our new board members.