The following letter was written by Maria T. Garcia, President of Parents of Blind Children of
For some time now I have felt that the only type of service that is regarded by many in our nation as truly valuable is service in our military. I think this is tied into our collective definition of heroism and strength. Governor Palin’s recent remarks dismissing Barack Obama’s service as a community organizer seemed to perpetuate that perspective.
As a community organizer, an advocate for children with disabilities, their parents, families and educators, and as a parent of a child with disabilities I understand that standing in defense of one’s country happens in many places and in many ways. It is found in the fight to preserve public education and public libraries and our public spaces. It is found in the battle against the erosion of our civil liberties and against those who support censorship and seek to ban books. It is found in community organizers battling racial and gender discrimination and in the struggle for fair wages, affordable housing and in the fight to reform our health care system. It is found in the movement for peace and in standing in opposition to war and occupation and to bringing our troops
In her address at the Republican National Convention, Governor Palin promised parents of children who have special needs that they would “have a friend and advocate in the White House. “ I believe that was a well meant sentiment, but Sarah Palin like every other brand new mother of a child with special needs is taking the first steps on a road she can’t possibly imagine. As the mother of a four month old infant with Down syndrome, Sarah Palin will learn by hard experience what her son needs and more importantly what she needs to be as the mother of a child with disabilities. In time she will learn what navigating the system really means when you have a child with special needs. I expect that she will have the fortitude to fight the system and be the warrior advocate that the parent of a child with disabilities needs to be. I pray that she will stand up to negative societal attitudes and demand high expectations of her child. I hope that she will have the courage to face her own and her family’s deepest fears about disability and that she work to make effective personal change and project that change into her own community. Very soon Governor Palin will know that her staunchest allies in this gut wrenching battle are the veteran parents with years of service on the front lines and she may even look up in surprise to see just who is standing by her side.
Then and only then will Governor Palin understand that what her child and every other child with disabilities needs is not a friend in the White House but rather a community of friends at his side that will stand up every day in a hundred ways and demand that society see him and every child like him as a whole person. Because change does not start at the top and gravitate down but is driven up from the bottom by people that are looked through, and from those within the community who give them a voice. Through that voice the people who are overlooked are elevated. That is the voice of the community organizer. The proud Americans who choose to serve in our disenfranchised communities to provide that voice to families facing seemingly insurmountable barriers to success are our nation’s unsung heroes and they should never be dismissed.