Ms. Linda Dickerson
Dickerson & Mangus, Ink.
BLN Breakfast
October 2, 2003

Thank you, I am truly flattered by this recognition. Like the turtle on top of the fencepost, I’m not quite sure how I got here, but I know that I did not do it alone.

This honor is shared by many in this room. In particular, I acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of Joyce Bender, a dear friend and a compatriot of mine in my eternal quest for inclusion. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. Joyce puts that little extra into everything that she undertakes. Because of this and her abject dedication to promoting competitive employment of people with disabilities, Joyce Bender and her capable associates are transforming lives.

They serve as daily inspiration to me—especially when I see the seemingly inescapable discrimination that is constantly thrust against people with disabilities.

All of you in this room probably doubt that discrimination is still a pervasive influence. You don’t discriminate. You recognize and value what people with disabilities can contribute to organizations, or you would not be here this morning. Most of you operate open and inclusive work environments. To all of you, I offer my personal congratulations, and I implore you to continue assiduously.

However, I also urge you to recognize that you are in the minority. Most—probably nine out of ten—employers do not hire people with disabilities and they do not celebrate diversity. Discrimination is unfortunately alive and well in today’s society. People like all of you in this room are the means to eradicate discrimination.

Competitive employment is freedom. Denying people competitive employment is denying them freedom. It truly is that simple. With employment comes liberty.

So, I besiege all of you to proactively share your hiring successes with others. Challenge them to spread freedom throughout the land. I will do the same.

Keep the faith. Spread the work. And, most importantly, lead the way for others to follow. Thanks very much!