Sep 29, 2022
President Biden and the First Lady Deliver Remarks to Celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act Transcript
President Biden and the First Lady deliver remarks to celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act and mark Disability Pride Month. Read the transcript here.
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First Lady Dr Jill Biden: (00:00)
Hello. Wow, what a beautiful day for this. Thank you and welcome to the White House. You know it’s wonderful to be with so many friends here today. The story of the disability community of all of you, is a story fearlessness and resilience. It’s the story of tireless dedication and overcoming incredible obstacles, both figurative and concrete. Who could forget the image of then, eight year old Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins leaving her wheelchair behind, to crawl up the congressional steps, along with dozens of other disability rights activists. Showing the world what it was like to be denied access to the people’s Capital. Because of the work of thousands of courageous people like Jennifer, who refused to be silent about the indignities that they faced, who built coalitions and unified advocates, unions, and civil rights leaders, who held onto the hope of a better way.
First Lady Dr Jill Biden: (01:18)
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law 32 years ago. This community continues to shape our nation, crafting our laws and dismantling injustice, penning our poetry and painting our dreams, teaching our children, and pushing the frontiers of our future. So you all probably know I’m an English teacher. Maybe there’s some English teachers in the audience. So I want to end with the words of the advocate and poet, Susan Mazrui. She wrote… And here she is. Stand up, Susan. Yes. All right, these are your words, “We are not the problem. We are problem solvers. We have changed the world. Tomorrow we fight the inequity that remains. Tonight, we celebrate disability, the power, and the pride.”
First Lady Dr Jill Biden: (02:52)
Pretty good. You all have changed the world, and that’s why we’re here today. We are honored to celebrate your power and your pride. So now, please join me in welcoming a leader who is working tirelessly to build on our progress, Mayor Tim Adams.
President Joe Biden: (03:25)
Do you need some help? There you go.
Mayor Tim Adams: (03:43)
Thank you, Mr President. Thank you, Dr Biden. Greetings, distinguished guests. I am humbled and deeply honored to be here today with you, talking about a topic that is so critical to me and to the lives of so many others. In 1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, I was a young man. I had just started my business the previous year. My thoughts and my attention were focused on keeping my business afloat and making my way in the world. Everything changed for me in 2003, as I suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury, that left me a paraplegic in the electric chair, as my mode of mobility. But I learned that the American with Disabilities Act was a lifeline for me and others like me. By codifying the right to equal opportunities, independence and economic self-sufficiency, it ensured that I could still open doors or move down the sidewalk on my own, and that I would continue to be in the room and be part of the discussions and the opportunities for my business to grow.
Mayor Tim Adams: (05:04)
When I think about where we are as a country, and I think about being a disabled person, I use three words to describe the situation. Creativity. My disability means that sometimes I can’t do things in the same way as others do. I have to adapt and to be creative in accomplishing tasks that others take for granted. The ADA has allowed us to imagine a world where adaptations are possible for all. Ingenuity. This goes hand in hand with creativity. Technological advances have given me mobility and independence. This state of the art modernized wheelchair and the electric ramp that lowers it out of my van weren’t always an option for people like us.
Mayor Tim Adams: (05:58)
The ADA fostered invention and transformed existing technologies into solutions for those who couldn’t see or hear or were limited in their mobility, and productivity. I was able to grow my small business into a national business that it is today, because I could work. You see, I could travel, build relationships, get funding, meet people where they were, because there were true mobility solutions for me. And yes, I have to say, I was able to move forward with the dream of becoming the Mayor of the City of Bowie, one of the largest and most diverse cities in the state of Maryland.
Mayor Tim Adams: (06:50)
Today, I’m delighted to be here celebrating the many, many life changing successes of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. After 33 years, it is as relevant and essential as it ever was, but the journey to equal access continues. There will be elevators that don’t work or are too small for a large motorized wheelchair, or handicapped parking spaces that won’t be painted properly so that a wheelchair can be lowered. But you know what? I am extremely grateful for the strong leadership of the Biden-Harris Administration, and I am deeply touched by the personal commitment that President Joe Biden has demonstrated to this cause, throughout his career. Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure and great honor to introduce the President of the United States of America, the honorable Joe Biden, and to thank him personally, for all he has done for all of us with disabilities. Thank you. God bless you.
President Joe Biden: (08:07)
Mayor Adams, you’re an inspiration, and so many people here are. Tammy and others as I look out, you’re simply an inspiration to people not only with disabilities, but people who don’t have disabilities, who find themselves feeling sorry for themselves and realize, “Wait a minute. Wait, what am I complaining about?” And I enjoy Jill, welcoming all of you. I echo her welcome. And every time she stands up and speaks, I think about, “This is a woman who didn’t want to be involved in public life and speaking.” I wonder what in the hell she’s… I’m voting for her.
First Lady Dr Jill Biden: (08:55)
I’m not running.
President Joe Biden: (09:02)
Tammy, it’s great to see you, kiddo. You’re not only a great, great Senator, but you’re really, genuinely a hero. You’re a war hero here. And Steny Hoyer, probably one of the most effective legislators in the last 40 years in the United States Congress, and a good friend. And Jim, you, you’re a pioneer in the House, 22 years. And if you wonder why there’s so many Secret Service around, they’re here to prevent you from retiring. Don’t go, I don’t want you to go. You’re the best pal. You’re the best. You really are. And I see a couple others out there. Who’s that guy sitting next to you? He’s new to the body. He knows about New York and bridges and all kinds of other things, but has also been an incredible supporter of the Disability Act.
President Joe Biden: (10:06)
We go back and remember guys like Bob Dole and others, don’t we pal, and who did so much. Look, I want to thank all the courageous advocates that are here. And there are a lot of advocates here, who’ve worked so hard to make our country more accessible and more just. Jill and I just wanted to host this celebration for two reasons. First, to celebrate Americans with Disabilities Act that our dear friend Tom Harkin of Iowa help write and pass 32 years ago.
President Joe Biden: (10:37)
And I was honored to be a co-sponsor. I take no credit for putting it together, Tom did all the heavy lifting, but I knew then, how important it was. And members of both parties. Both parties pressed through two administrations, led by a dear friend of mine, and many of us, the Republican leader, Bob Dole, and under President George H W Bush, signed into law, one of our most important civil rights laws ever. It’s hard for younger generations to imagine a world without the ADA. It’s just impossible. I’ll not mention his name, I shouldn’t go off script here, but not mention his name. But I remember one of the things that got me in real trouble one day as a young senator, I’d only been there a month and a half.
President Joe Biden: (11:25)
There was a senator standing up on the floor of the Senate, excoriating Bob Dole and Teddy Kennedy for a precursor for this legislation saying, “Why should you confiscate my money to put in a curb cut? Why should I have to pay for it?”, et cetera. And it really is something that you all, even those of you who are not here, who are here that are not disabled, you feel in your gut, there’s just a basic decency and fairness. And remember the days when, none of you are old enough in here, but remember the days when, if you were disabled, stores would turn you away. Employers could refuse to hire you. If you used a wheelchair, there was no required accommodation to take a bus that’s mentioned already, or a train to school or to work. America simply wasn’t built for all Americans, but we changed that. And now, for one in four Americans living with disability in America, we changed the law. It’s the key to equality, opportunity, independence. Tammy and Jim have both said, they wouldn’t be where they were today without the ADA.
President Joe Biden: (12:42)
They’ve made speeches about that, it matters. For our country, the ADA is a testament to the character of our people, to the country. It’s proof we could work together and keep moving closer to realizing the promise of America, for all Americans, for all Americans. And it’s proof of the power of our example, an American law that is a global model, inspiring 180 other nations to pass similar disability laws. And folks, the ADA advocate, Jim Dart, who was often recognized as the Godfather who wrote the ADA in 1990… He wrote in 1990, about the ADA. He said, “The ADA is only the beginning. It’s not a solution. It’s an essential foundation on which solutions will be constructed.” From day one, my administration has been building on the ADA Foundation. My Labor Department is protecting the rights of workers with disabilities, and fighting to end unjust sub-minimum wages.
President Joe Biden: (13:51)
That’s critical. When today, disabled Americans are still three times less likely than others to be employed, and often earn less for the same work that’s being done by others. We’re also creating a new job by helping state and local governments, employers and nonprofits tap federal funds to hire more disabled Americans. Our infrastructure law makes the biggest investment ever in accessible transit, updating subways, trains, and airports.
President Joe Biden: (14:25)
It expands access to high speed internet, a lifeline for people with disabilities to work, to study, to stay connected. And I know COVID 19 is hitting the disabilities community especially hard. The pain, the isolation, the separation, the toll on the mental and physical health of all people of the community, the loss of life. And on this day, we remember those lives lost and we thank everyone, everyone who is still… We think of them all, those are still hurting, those who are still struggling, including those living with long COVID. That’s why throughout the pandemic, we focused on increasing access to healthcare, to get us through this darkest of times. The American Rescue Plan provided $25 billion to states to expand home and community-based services under Medicaid.
President Joe Biden: (15:19)
So more people who have disabilities, can live independently at their home. We’ve delivered vaccines, masks, tests, therapeutics directly to people in their neighborhoods. We’ve mobilized a whole-of-government effort to advance our understanding of long COVID and accelerate progress and prevention, diagnosis and treatment. And I continue to call on Congress to provide the resources we need, to deal with COVID across the board. We followed up with the Inflation Reduction Act, one of the most significant laws in our history. One that will lower the cost of prescription drugs, healthcare, energy, and to make sure the biggest corporations begin to pay their fair share in taxes. There’s more we’re doing. There’s more we’re doing to advance disability rights across the board, from increasing access to the ballot box, to promoting equity and inclusion around the world. All this is important progress. But the second reason we wanted to host this reception, is to acknowledge a movement that’s not just about disability rights, but also about disability pride.
President Joe Biden: (16:39)
It’s about recognizing, disability isn’t something broken to be fixed. For millions of Americans, their disability is a source of identity and power. Disability pride is about every Americans equal right, equal right to be recognized for who they are. It’s about celebrating the progress we’ve made and the future ahead. And one of the reasons I’m so optimistic about our future is because of our young people. They’re the most gifted, best educated, talented, and accepting generation in our history. And joining us today is one of the generations brightest lights. I’m going to turn it back to Jill to introduce him, but God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Jilly, the floor is yours.
First Lady Dr Jill Biden: (17:31)
Thank you. Born blind, Jose Andre Montano learned to play piano at just four years old. Today, at 17, he’s played festivals and concert halls across the world, including at the Kennedy Center where I heard him earlier this year. I was stunned by his music. It was incredible, and I couldn’t wait to bring him to the White House. Today, not only is he here with us, I’m excited to be joined by his parents as well, Roberto and Giovanna.
President Joe Biden: (18:07)
First Lady Dr Jill Biden: (18:08)
Please welcome Jose Andre Montano.