I was going to write about driving 2,199 miles cross-country in a month, but the death of President George H.W. Bush this week has made me very nostalgic. I will post about driving later, but this week we need to be thankful to selfless Americans, and bid President George Herbert Walker Bush farewell, with gratitude.
One of my first memories of being a “lobbyist” in Washington, D.C. is sitting next to Senator Tom Harkin (Democrat from Iowa) at a Washington D.C. fundraising dinner. The setting was beautiful, the east hall of Union Station (my favorite building in D.C.). What the hell am I doing sitting next to U.S. Senator Tom Harkin at a catered dinner in Washington, D.C.? What the F+CK? I was attending a National Democratic Senate Committee fundraiser, because I represented the 2 million members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEIU was the largest and fastest growing labor union, with a huge political action committee (PAC), which meant LOTS of campaign money $$$. I was very proud to represent workers and union members who were contributing $3-$5 a month, multiplied by 2 million. As opposed to the Koch Brothers (2) or Sheldon Adelson (1) giving millions (3 times millions), maybe even billions to the GOP. In 1998, I gathered signatures of Nevada voters in the Carson City Wal-Mart parking lot opposing Adelson’s effort to put a ballot intiative to bust unions. Let’s just say workers are out spent and out gunned when it comes to politics. But, that is for another post on another day.
Today, I want to talk about President George Herbert Walker Bush. Tonight, I watched former Senator Tom Harkin on the PBS NewsHour (please listen to this post) talk about working with President Bush (41) to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and it reminded me of sitting next to Senator Harkin.
Every time Senator Harkin tried to take a small bite of food, someone interrupted his bite. The poor man needed to eat. But every time he tried, he was interrupted, mid-bite. When the speeches began, as they most certainly would, I had my chance. I asked Senator Harkin, “Why do you do this?” He didn’t miss a beat, speaking with his mouth full. He said the greatest accomplishment and thing he took the most pride in was passing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Senator Harkin’s brother was disabled, and he was fighting to ensure his brother and millions of other disabled Americans (so many of them veterans) would not have artificial barriers to living a normal life. I had to thank him, too. As a union representative the ADA had helped me represent workers ensuring they could do their jobs regardless of their disability.
We take our access for granted. We expect to step over a sidewalk curb; or enter a restaurant; or board a bus, train, or airplane; or walk-up a flight of stairs. We take it for granted, and never give it a second thought. Even campgrounds are handicap accessible!
Because of Republican President George H.W. Bush and Democrat Senator Tom Harkin worked together (and others) for a greater good, disabled Americans are better off, and we are all better for their decency. These men/politicians worked together, across party lines giving hope, access and public accommodations to millions of disabled Americans.
Thank you, President George H.W. Bush and Senator Tom Harkin, for being kind, decent patriotic politicians who cared more about average Americans, and not party ideology. President Bush believed in public service as an honorable calling. “Let the shameful walls of disability come tumbling down”, President George H.W. Bush at the signing of the ADA.