By John M. Williams
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for America to rally and produce better teachers and leaders, to become innovative and to invest in rebuilding our decaying infrastructure. He called for America to become great again. He called for Americans to rally around their government and to trust it. He called for bi-partisanship in moving the country forward. He laid out his vision for moving the country forward. He struck the right cords.
After listening to his speech and then to Rep. Paul Ryanâ€™s (R-Wis.) rebuttal, I wonder if the Republicans and the viewing and listening audience were listening. The Republicans werenâ€™t listening, but the people I have spoken to understand the message. They have adopted a wait and see attitude on whether the Republicans and Democrats and the White House will work in unison to move the country forward.
Historically America is strongest and works better when both political parties and Americans are united whether it is to win a war, to build the transcontinental railroad, to build interstate highways, to go to the Moon, to defeat communism and to build a better country economically, socially, politically, religiously, educationally and professionally for every American. When more Americans prosper, businesses prosper. Businesses know they prosper when American workers prosper. And yet, businesses continue to ship jobs abroad, and they sit on two-trillion dollars for investment that could make them richer. Why? Why arenâ€™t businesses rallying for America? An even larger question is why are American consumers supporting businesses that are not rallying for America?
President Obama knows the economic and social history of America better then Republicans. He wants the country to move forward as one. In responding to the presidentâ€™s call to rally, the Republicans have decided they want a country that benefits most Americans or just wealthy people. They want a country run by businesses. They want a country undereducated and underemployed that will not meet the challenges a global economy presents.
In expanding educational and job opportunities, students with disabilities and adults with disabilities must be included in the presidentâ€™s goals. This means students with disabilities must be seen as future leaders and given the same educational opportunities as able-bodied students. They must be trained to be scientists, mathematicians, engineers, researchers, lawyers, writers. They must be encouraged to spend more time studying. They must be seen as doers. They must be inspired to become all that they can be.
The tasks for teachers and parents of students of students with disabilities to convince these students to go beyond what they believe they can do is daunting and can be physically punishing for everyone. I understand that there are students with disabilities who lack the intellectual ability to do more. Still, there are other students with the intellectual ability to do more. They must be put into better college preparatory programs. They must be given access to all the assistive technology products they need from pre-school through college. They must be treated as equals with able-bodied students. They must be allowed to pass and even fail. They must be allowed to reach for the unreachable star, no matter how hopeless and no matter how far. An education is their future also.
Having earned an education adults with disabilities must be hired by the public and private sectors. I want to see more people with disabilities employed in the private sector. They deserve an opportunity to show and develop their talents and leadership skills. They must be seen as equals among their able-bodied peers, and their supervisors. They must be recognized as future leaders and put on the path to become leaders. Upon achieving higher positions, they must be visible to their peers and the public. They must be given role models to emulate, and they must become role models for current peers and future peers with disabilities to emulate. When obstacles are put in front of them, they must surmount them through education, persuasion and, when necessary, through litigation.
Employing and educating individuals with disabilities requires assistive technology manufacturers to be innovative in developing smarter, more versatile and less expensive products for use in education and employment. More government and foundation grants must be available to develop these products.
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