Editor’s note: Justin Dart, Jr., was a leader in the disability rights movement for three decades, and an advocate for civil rights. He is recognized as “the godfather of the disability rights movement” and the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He has received numerous honors, including the Hubert Humphrey Award of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and five presidential appointments. Dart was at the podium on the White House lawn when President George H. Bush signed the ADA into law in July 1990. Dart remained dedicated to his vision of a “revolution of empowerment” until his death on June 21, 2002. Yoshiko Dart, Justin’s wife gave Access Press his written thoughts on the 2004 election.
Justin Dart, Jr., internationally-renowned disability rights leader and celebrated human rights activist, died in Washington, D.C. on June 21, 2002.
The Legitimacy Of Our Goal Is Self-Evident. Can we overcome the psychology and the politics of retreat? Can we overcome forces that invest billions in the maintenance of traditional stereotypes? Not quickly, not easily. But we can win. We have the ultimate powers: people, truth, love. We have you. We have each other.
Colleagues, You Have The Power, and therefore the responsibility, to defend democracy and to create a society of individualized empowerment for all. Because you are the society. Society is not a magical super god that can give or withhold quality of life. Society is nothing more than what you do and think everyday. When you speak, the society speaks. When you change, the society changes. When you expose, turn off the ads, and boycott the interests that support the far right, they are weakened instantly. When enough people do it, their power is gone. They have little money except what we give them.
The Empowerment Society Will Not Occur Through Advocacy As Usual. It is not enough to meet the President or the Mayor. We must vote, all of us. We must not only vote and petition government, we must become government, through official positions, and through 365 days a year citizen advocacy. We must create a social environment in which no person who requires public support public official, businessperson, media personcould afford to oppose individualized empowerment for all.
We Need Your Aggressive Leadership to increase our passion and our tiny empowerment army one hundred fold. We need leaders who are ready to live, and if necessary to die, for democracy.
You Can Lead. Unlike our opponents on the far right, you will not be able to buy multimillion-dollar ad campaigns. But if you reach out constantly, repetitively with love and truth, spoken and lived, to everyone in your personal universe, you can be a walking/rolling/talking ad for individualized empowerment that no money could buy. Your truth in action will change the part of society that you are. The intensity of your loving truthful action will be a powerful influence on others.
TEN WAYS YOU CAN MAKE THE DREAM LIVE
1. Give up life as usual – escapist television and games, time consuming, expensive travel and recreation, and devote the time to passionate advocacy for individualized empowerment.
2. Give up politically and socially correct conversation and become a single minded, repetitious communicator of the message of individualized empowerment – so that when people see you across the street, your message will register in their minds even though you say nothing.
3. Speak to people with words of love, giving them sincere, loving praise for the distinctive positives that everybody has. They will be glad to see you coming and be far more likely to internalize your message of empowerment.
4. Recruit your family members and friends first. People from age one to a hundred can be good advocates. Severely disabled people living in nursing homes can be good advocates. Small babies and dogs can carry good buttons and signs with great effect.
5. The vital election campaigns of 2004 are fully underway. Become a politician, promoting your agenda everyday through every political process. Volunteer and contribute money to the campaigns of good politicians. You will have ten times more influence than if you simply ask them for favors. Get into politics as if your life depended on itbecause it doesand the lives of your children’s children.
6. Become a media person – write letters to the editors, participate in radio and TV talk shows, become friends with media employees and business and political staff. Become a media professional.
7. Use the electronic technology to send out brief talking points on the issues – make sure they are 100% accurate. Most political advocacy is obvious exaggeration. It goes directly into the wastebasket.
8. Be an aggressive participant in your local and national advocacy organizations – from AAPD, LCCR, CCD, NCIL, ADAPT, DREDF, people first, psychiatric survivors and People for the American Way to your local independent living center, disability and civil rights coalitions. If you support them they will support your advocacy for individualized empowerment.
9. If there is no cross-disability action group in your area, form one. Thirteen penniless people started the Christian revolution, and the same number started the modern Chinese revolution.
10. When necessary, send you message of love and truth with militant action. You will be surprised how small demonstration at a political, media or business office can change attitudes.