Justin Dart Jr., Hero of the ADA – my hero

During this discouraging time, where so much of up is down, where lies take prominence, and truth is mocked – where the Americans with Disabilities Act is being threatened, where greed and self-interest is trumping the gains we have made in compassion and empathy, I thought of Justin Dart and how much his inspiration and leadership I miss.  I was honored to have the opportunity to be with him at meetings and join in a small way in working with him for causes that we both held dear.  For those who are not familiar with Justin’s work, know that he was a true hero – the acknowledged father of the ADA.  It’s easy to find out about Justin through a simple google search.

As I watched the amazing survivors of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting protesting along with young people across the country, I could not help but think of Justin Dart and all that he accomplished.  I let myself believe that maybe . . . . maybe real change is on the horizon.  That the mantle of leadership will be and is being taken up by a new generation of young committed people.

In 2002 I attended the memorial service for Justin at the church in Washington that Lincoln regularly attended.  Many dignitaries heaped praise on Justin for his tireless work in behalf of social justice.  The 2 plus hours of the memorial service was recorded by CSPAN and can be accessed at:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?171512-1/justin-dart-jr-memorial-service

I watched it again and was moved just as I was when I was there.  There is hope for change.

In Justin’s words, “I adamantly protest the richest culture in the history of the world, a culture which has the obvious potential to create a golden age of science and democracy dedicated to maximizing the quality of life of every person, but which still squanders the majority of its human and physical capital on modern versions of primitive symbols of power and prestige.”

We are watching what happens when a divisive segment of we the people fight for the right to own a gun while  neglecting the rights and needs of so many people to have sufficient healthy food, safe affordable housing, quality medical care and a sense of acceptance and belonging in the community of their choice.  Emphasizing and supporting a specific group with singular issues, devolves into Us against Them rather than recognizing the common thread of our interwoven and shared needs for connection.   Following such a path can only result in keeping our better selves stuck in rabbit holes burrowing deeper and inextricably into chaos.

Our children are standing tall. 

Perhaps it is now time – long over-due – for the call to be heeded for each of us in our own way to do our part.

Justin ended meetings with a call for all of us to acknowledge our power, assume personal responsibility, and remember, “I LOVE YOU  . . . . . LEAD ON.”