tv Americans With Disabilities Act and Civil Rights CSPAN August 30, 2014 3:15pm-3:54pm EDT
>> i have been told that i should start by saying howdy. [laughter] i really do thank you all for being here. it is a great honor for me to take this panel off. i want to start introducing senator harkin who is known to all of you. he was a lead on the ada years ago when 41 bush was president. he helped get it through congress. sitting here is ben carson, famous neurosurgeon. i am going to pause after we talk about the ada to give him more introduction. it is going to be a different statute he is talking about. i will explain that in a minute. john wodatch was one of the principal negotiators at the department of justice for this legislation. a lot of the language in the bill, he actually wrote. he knew what he was doing.
for that, i am eternally grateful. he has just come from georgia, the country not the state, where he has been advising on international disability issues. he will explain about what an extraordinary impact this has had internationally. lex frieden is a professor of medicine at the university of texas. one of the godfathers of the ada, one of our great teachers. his friends also helped in this. lex was an amazing teacher. i am going to start with him. he is the first speaker before we go to senator harkin. >> thank you.
it is a great honor for me to be here today and share with you my memory of the first meeting i had with president bush. it was january, 1986. three colleagues from the national council on disability and i had the opportunity to go to the white house and present the vice president with the recommendations from a report that we had been working on for two years. the report was all about how to make legislation that would improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and provide people with disabilities the opportunity to be full participants in our communities and to work and do things other people do. we were proud of the report and we were told and we arrived that the west wing, that we were fortunate the vice president had
time for us but he didn't have a lot of time. we would be able to go in, stand by the fireplace, and the report to him, have our photograph taken and that would be a photo op for us. we were very pleased by that honor and we were escorted into the office. we were escorted into the office and george bush called an audible. he said, the photographs have been taken. sit down and tell me more about what you have in mind. he said, i had the chance to review your advance copy last night. i visited with barbara about it some. we had a child, a daughter who had a disability and she passed away. one of our sons has a disability. we are both very concerned about the challenges that people with disabilities face in housing, in transportation.
he said, especially in employment and education. what can we do about this? according to your report, you recommend legislation that would prevent discrimination on the basis of disability. he said, you have recommended the civil rights act for people with disabilities. we said, yes sir. a little anxious for us to say that because maybe president reagan wouldn't care to hear about a civil rights act. we called it an equal opportunity bill. we are really eager to have congress introduce this legislation. we visited about what could be done and at the end of the meeting, bush said, i would like to help you with this. but you have to remember, i am just the vice president.
after a pause, he said, but i promise if i ever have the opportunity to do more in the future, i will. two years later, george bush was elected president. two years after that, july 20 6, 1990, president bush signed the americans with disabilities act. [applause] mr. president, 56 million americans and our families will forever be grateful to you for your understanding, your leadership, your courage, your caring and your promise. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, lex.
senator harkin, if you have some words to say. >> the first thing i would like to say is, don't put me on after lex frieden. [laughter] he is very good. first of all, i want to thank you. i want to thank the george h.w. bush presidential foundation for inviting me to be here on this wonderful 25th anniversary. it is an honor to be here today just as it was an honor to work with president bush and his team when we passed the ada in 1990. president bush didn't only say he was in favor of the ada. he put some muscle behind it. i always liked his tell this story. it was one friday afternoon. i happened to be in my office. my secretary came in and said,
we got a call from the white house. the president would like to know if you would come down and have some drinks at the white house later today. of course. [laughter] are you kidding me? so i went down to the white house. it turned out the first lady was gone at that time. i don't know if you know he did these things, barbara. [laughter] we are all down there. it was a very pleasant gathering, having drinks on the balcony. two things stick in my mind. i sat on the bed, the lincoln bed with jack kemp and we both had a drink in our hand and the white house photographer came and took a picture. jack turned to me and said, are you going to destroy that
picture or am i? [laughter] not good for either one of us. what i do remember most is that as we were leaving, there is that little elevator that goes down. i got there and the president was standing there with this rather tall man whom i did not know. i said, maybe i should just walk down. he said, no, no. just as gracious as ever, the president said, get on. i got on the elevator and i went down to the first floor. this was just a social gathering. i felt very hesitant. i said, mr. president, this is a social gathering but there is one thing. we are working like the dickens on this emergency disabilities act and we are having a lot of problems. we need some help.
he turned to this lanky guy that i never met before and said, boyden, i want that bill done. get it done. so boyden became our go-to person. he assigned him to get it done and then he got dick thornburg, the attorney general, sam skinner who was secretary of transportation, the secretary of health and human services, as a team. they all put their shoulders to the grindstone and we got it done. i think the passage of the ada is a testament to the collaborative approach that the president demanded. it is a testament of the willingness to work and compromise to pass one of the most influential pieces of legislation in the last 50 years. you have to think about how the ada has changed our world.
i tend to think a lot of people who voted for it that time didn't realize the changes it was going to make. you look around. because of president bush's leadership, our streets, transportation, buildings, communications, retail businesses, government offices, ports, schools, architecture -- every building is of universal design. it is amazing. a world that was isolated and segregated for peoples with disabilities has changed. i mentioned those barriers that exist in that world. when i visited houston in 1994 to accept the george h.w. bush medal for the empowerment of people with disabilities. i was the second recipient. president bush was the first.
at that ceremony, i predicted how history would remember george h.w. bush. here is my exact words. i am retiring this year so i am going through a lot of my files. here is what i said 20 years ago. i believe history will judge george bush as a good and decent man who led this nation through tough times, who taught us all the true meaning of public service. for george bush's life has been one of dedication to public service. as a former navy pilot myself, i have the highest respect and admiration for his bravery as a navy pilot in world war ii. he has been a congressman, leader of his party, ambassador, head of the cia, vice president and president. a truly remarkable career of public service. someday, when a new generation of american schoolchildren sit
down to study the fight for justice and equal rights for all americans, they will of course read about abraham lincoln, the emancipation proclamation. they will learn about susan b anthony. they will learn about rosa parks and the freedom fighters. they will learn about a quiet self-effacing texan who, with one stroke of his pen, helped millions of americans with disabilities. this is how history will remember president george bush. as he said on the day he used that can, i will never forget, i left my pen to sign this americans with disabilities act and say that the same full laws of exclusion finally come tumbling down. i have notes from every
president that i have served with, from president ford to president obama. there is only one note that i have framed and i keep on my credenza in my office. it is a note from president bush. here is what it says. dear tom, i just want to thank you for those very kind comments at friday's luncheon. if you thought you saw a tear in the corner of my eye, you were right. kind words mean a lot and your tribute was far more than i deserved. thanks for coming to houston. everyone at the luncheon was delighted to have you there and we were all moved by your remarks as you accepted the award you deserved. sincerely, george bush. that is the only note from any of the presidents i have served with that i have framed because it means that much to me.
i told you about president bush's leadership but i want to add one other thing. he did not come to this lately or late in the game. let me tell you a story. in 1978, a young girl was born in iowa. her name was katie. her mother was julie beckett. at the age of four months, she came down with viral encephalitis that left her terribly disabled. neurological damage, had to have a breathing tube, much of her motor movement she couldn't operate. she stayed in the hospital. it cost $12,000 a month to take care of her. her parents asked for a waiver from the medicaid program so they could care for her at home. at that time, if katie moved
home, she would have been disqualified from receiving supplemental security income and would have lost her medicaid. her parents couldn't afford that. the beckett's petitioned medicaid, social security, everybody. a congressman called up vice president george bush, with whom he had a good relationship. he told him about this. vice president bush picked up the phone and got a hold of secretary schweiker, the head of health and human services. told him about the story and said, surely there is something we can do about it. they got the policy changed. katie beckett came home. it only cost them $2000 a month to care for her at home. it saved the taxpayers money, made a better life. because vice president bush
interceded and insisted on making that change, katie blazed a path for home and community services to this day. over 500,000 in america since that time have been able to leave the hospital and be taken care of by their parents and still get medicaid support. [applause] president bush has not let up on his advocacy. in 2012 he sent a letter to my colleagues in which he said, the united states has the opportunity to take the next step. continuous leadership and disability rights to open the doors of exclusion that shut out people with disabilities around the world. he was urging the senate to ratify the convention on persons with disabilities. he was urging the senate to extend the promise of the ada to people with disabilities around the world. i couldn't agree with him more.
he first served with president reagan who was fond of saying america is a shining city on a hill, an example to the world. there are many examples of the united states as a shining city. there is one indisputable example and that is our leadership on disability right. to continue to be that shining city, we need to share our values and policies related to disability rights and empowerment. we need to lead. the way we can do that is to pass the u.n. treaty on disabilities, the crpd. it is a treaty that will help americans, it will help our citizens with disabilities who work and study abroad. it will help our businesses as we develop standards for products to reach disability markets around the globe. that is why it is supported by the u.s. chamber of commerce, every veterans organization,
almost every religious group. it is the right thing to do. we have set the gold standard for disability policy. it is time to share that expertise with others. as i work with my colleagues to pass the crpd, i am proud to be working with partners on disability policy. john wodatch, lex frieden, boyden gray, steve barber, and some of you may not know the next person i am going to say -- he is not with us any longer but his memory compels us to not give up and to get this done -- and that is justin dart. 20 years ago, i pledged to the president to work with him to make equal opportunity a reality for all people throughout the
world. i thank you again, mr. president. for your leadership at home, but particularly for me, i grew up when the president was disabled. -- i grew up with a brother who was disabled. i saw how he was discriminated against. your leadership in telling us to pass the crpd is vital. i renew my pledge to work in partnership with you to pass the crpd and continue to break down the shameful walls of exclusion. thank you for inviting me here today to celebrate the leadership of president bush. [applause] >> thank you very much.
one thing which i think we all understand is that this treaty has been adopted by a great many countries worldwide. the impact of this legislation has had extraordinary international impact. a couple of quick words, john, about what the international impact has been. >> i am delighted to be year. mr. president and mrs. bush, since i work for you, you are heroes not only to me but for millions of people with disabilities. what you may not know is the actions you have taken here, your vision for opening up every day american life for people with disabilities in this country so they can have equal
opportunity, has started a revolution around the world. even before the u.n. convention, countries around the world were coming to look at the united states and what it has done with the americans with disabilities act. you look at the constitution in uganda. you look at legislation in australia, in african countries, in asian countries, in russia and china even. they have the words that you signed into law in their laws. promising citizens that they will have equal opportunities. the years of neglect, the years of shame are over. in these countries, some of which don't have the resources that we have been able to put together to open up our society,
they are finding ways to make sure their buildings are accessible, transportation is accessible, so people with disabilities can start to lead meaningful lives. now that the u.n. has adopted this treaty, if you read it and put it next to the americans with disabilities act, you would see the same words and phrases. the same concepts. we were negotiating the treaty and his guidance to our team to negotiate the treaty was to make it as much like the americans with disabilities act as we could. we were very successful. i can tell you that over 140 countries around the world have adopted this treaty and they are coming to grips with what it means to open up their society. i just was in georgia working with government officials, people with disabilities who understand the concepts of independence, empowerment.
these are really traditional american values that we are exporting around the world. that is true because of your vision. i have been spending a lot of time working on the treaty and its ratification by our country. i think ratification by the united states is essential. i can think of no better tribute to you and your legacy then for the united states senate to ratify this treaty and allow the united states to assume its rightful place in leading the world on this issue. i thank you so much for your leadership on this. thank you. [applause] >> i want to thank you, john,
for all the work you have done over the years to make this a reality. i am going to change the subject and talk about a civil rights bill that was passed a year later. it is a complicated situation which i do not have time to go into, but it was vetoed a year before it was signed into law. there are not many times that has happened. it was vetoed because it interfered with the education of disadvantaged minorities. i will explain the background. we got that fixed and the way we fixed it was to import into that act, the language from the americans with disabilities act.
that is one of the connections. the point i want to make here and i hope dr. carson can collaborate, we do have an educational problem in out inner cities. we have a problem with education, understanding. president bush was very courageous with secretary alexander when he appointed him as secretary of education, to push for a bill which would have given choice to disadvantaged youth. it started out great. it turned sour. there was a big report that came out from one of the foundations saying the minority community does not like this. if you go to any urban city in this country, you would find
70%, 80%, 90% support. i am talking about charter schools. john's daughter runs a charter school where almost 50% of the kids are in charter schools. this is the way forward. dr. carson has for years been funding scholarships for disadvantaged youth. he will celebrate in baltimore tonight from now. you have given them a chance to get educated in inner cities. i hope you will pick up here and say what it means for young
minorities, what it means to have free society education and what you have been able to do with your scholarships. >> thank you, ambassador gray. thank you to the bushes for always being such incredible advocates of education. we talk about you many times in our home. education to my mother was the gold standard. she was one of 24 children, got married when she was 13. she and my father moved from tennessee to detroit. she discovered some years later that he was a bigamist, had another family. i did tell that story at a graduation. it was in utah and no one thought it was that strange. [laughter] just kidding.
they don't do that anymore in utah. at any rate, for her, she only had a third grade education. she just lusted after education because she saw what it provided and she saw what she couldn't do. she was always after us. i wasn't very astute but because she saw in the homes where she worked, people being educated, people spending a lot of time reading, people not watching tv all the time, she came home -- turn off the tv -- and made us start reading books. we had to read two books a week and she had us submit to her written book reports which she couldn't read, but we didn't know that. [laughter] checkmarks and highlights and underlines. i was not a happy camper. i didn't like being poor, i will tell you that. some people don't like spiders.
some people don't like snakes and scorpions. i didn't like poverty. it was horrible. as i started reading those books, which we had to do -- back in those days, you had to do what your parents told you to do. there was no social psychologists saying, let the kid express himself. [laughter] we had to do it. i started reading about people, people who were successful. it dawned on me that the person who has the most power is you and you can empower yourself through education. the average person lives to be about 80 years old. you have done better than average. the first 25 years, you spend preparing yourself or not preparing yourself. if you prepare yourself, you have 60 years to reap the benefits. if you don't, you have 60 years to suffer the consequences.
that is the reason that education is of such value. as i started reading those books, i started telling all kinds of things. everybody used to call me dummy but i went from the bottom of the class to the top of the class. the same kids work saying, how do you work this problem? perhaps a little obnoxious, but it felt good to say that. what a difference it made, completely changed my life. i was able to go on through the public school system in detroit. i got a scholarship to yale. it was wonderful, i met my wonderful wife. understanding all of those things just propelled me.
by the time i was 33, i was the chief of pediatric surgery at johns hopkins. interestingly, if somebody would have sat me down in front of a computer and said, you can type out whatever career you want to have, i could never have come up with the career i actually had. so much of that had to do with being able to get an extremely good education after coming from the lowest rungs and going to the top one percent. how do you do that? with education, the very thing that you have advocated through all these years. that is one of the reasons candy and i started the carson's college fund. we give out scholar awards to children from all backgrounds. and demonstration of
humanitarian qualities. you can be very smart, but if you don't care about anybody else, you can't win. we now have over 6000 scholars throughout the united states and we also put in reading rooms all over the country. candy is coming back to texas to open up one in wichita falls. they are places that no little kid would pass up. we target title i schools in particular. a lot of those kids come from homes with no books. they go to schools with no libraries. those are the people who do not complete high school, which is a disaster in the information age. the age in which we live, where knowledge is power, we all have to be really tuned into these kinds of programs. we also have to be thinking about how to improve school systems. vouchers, wonderful.
those who understand the value of that have to start speaking out strongly about this. how do we fund schools? the problem of course being if you live in a wealthy neighborhood, you have a lot of scholars and you can build a really nice school. if you live in a poor neighborhood -- that doesn't work. we need to find a much better way of funding public schools to make sure those people who start out on the lower rungs have a better chance to get to the higher rungs. everybody we can keep from that path of self-destruction is one less person we have to be afraid of, one less person we have to pay for in the penal system or the welfare system, one more taxpaying member of society who may discover a new energy source or the cure for cancer. those are the kinds of things that help us as a society. we are a very compassionate society. some people like to complain about us.
they say there are too many greedy people in america. what a bunch of hogwash that is. the problem is a lot of the people who do things don't go around crowing about it. it seems like that is the only way you can get any attention. certainly the bushes have not gone around doing that but maybe we need to find more ways to make things available to people. the worst thing we can do in our society for those who are downtrodden is to pat them on the head and say, i am going to give you health care, housing subsidies, food stamps. you do not have to worry about a thing. that is not kind and compassionate. that is actually cruel because you are making those people dependent. what we need to be doing is looking at the ways that we can use our collective intellect and resources to give people a hand up rather than a handout. it will make us much stronger as a country. i commend the bushes for what they have done.
[applause] >> we are actually out of time so you can't ask any questions. [laughter] i am going to tell an anecdote about president bush. he didn't come late to the game on disability. early in the reagan's first term, the work we had to do with justin dart on the regulatory issues, that is how i got introduced to this whole set of issues, we had a visit from a group called california first, a group of 18 or 20 down syndrome kids from california. i thought this would be a difficult meeting but within
five minutes they were laughing up a storm, the vice president and these kids. after about 15 minutes, he looks at his watch and says, wow, the president didn't have anything on his calendar. i am going to take these kids to see president reagan. he did not call up anybody. he walked down the hallway. it was another hour before they came back. i don't know what they did but if you think the president reagan didn't appreciate the problems of disadvantaged youth, you are wrong. i want to thank the panel for coming from georgia, washington, iowa. i want to thank the panel and thank you for the opportunity, president bush. [applause]
>> you're watching american history tv. programming on american history every weekend on c-span 3. follow us on twitter at the span c-spanhistory. about 50 years ago on august 10, 1954, president lyndon johnson signed the gulf of tonkin resolution which gave him broad powers to wage war in southeast asia. that resolution was passed by congress in response to an august second attack and alleged august 4 incident involving an american destroyer and vietnamese torpedo boats.
numerous declassified documents have shed more light on the documents. >> i am tom blanton and we are here on the top floor of the main washington -- main library of the george washington university. we are in a room with declassified artifacts. most of the documents we get today are digital. we can look through the historians' work, the inside the interceptsk, of the north vietnamese conversations, and listen to president johnson's phone calls as he is talking with the ,ecretary of defense, mcnamara and begin to understand two huge realities that were not known to the public at the time. one, that the north vietnamese attacks on the sd