Non-Magic Carpets To Success

Continued From The Previous Post . . .

Marian Wright Edelman
By CDC (PHIL #8416)
(Obtained from CDC Public
Health Image Library.)
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
"If you see a need, do not ask why doesn't somebody do something, ask why don't I do something. Hard work and persistence and initiative are still the non-magic carpets to success for most of us."

Marian Wright Edelman, Civil Rights Activist and Lawyer, spoke these words during the commencement address at the Washington University in St. Louis on May 15, 1992. I was present when she delivered that address.

Before departing on March 23, the Go Team advocates asked me to attend their hearing. I apologized, explaining prior professional commitments prevented this. None of the advocates persisted, but I realized the invitation was not a mere formality.

Thus, I endeavored to rearrange my schedule. Murphy's Law, however, took the upper hand. Despite several phone calls and a visit to the court house that day, too many logistics and not enough time stood in the way. Nevertheless, various people returned favorable reviews about each adult's testimony. I was honored to have contributed to this successful outcome.

My communication continued with Ronnie, the Go Team Sponsor. The honors ceremony remained on the horizon. Therefore, I met the Go Team on May 18. Before meeting, I researched themes and speaking styles.

President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with 
Civil Rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr.
Whitney YoungJames Farmer
By Yoichi R. Okamoto [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons.
Knowing the Go Team advocates yearned for freedom, I studied I Have a Dream by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Additionally, I learned about the history and personal experiences of those who have bravely struggled for freedom and equality.

Furthermore, I researched the structure of compelling speeches.

The most effective speech structure involved describing the harsh reality of life today, proposing a remedy, and contrasting life today with dreams of a more perfect future. Accordingly, it seemed to me the Go Team advocates would make the strongest impression by describing life today in the Developmental Center, and contrasting this with descriptions of the future life each advocate dreamed about when the Developmental Centers will finally be closed.

We prepared for these speeches similarly to the way we prepared for the Task Force testimony. Speaking with the advocates heightened my awareness of various things I take for granted. For example, freedom means the ability to choose how to spend one's time. One may go to the mall, to the beach, or for a bike ride at one's leisure. The advocates, however, are not free to make these kinds of choices.

Freedom includes choosing the people with whom to associate and socialize. In the D.C., however, the advocates are not free to make these kinds of choices. Freedom also means responsibility, like the responsibility to hold a job. At the same time, freedom means having the option to choose one's occupation. Life in the D.C., however, does not include those liberties. Without completely dismissing the general reasons for these restrictions, my discussions deepened my own appreciation for the many freedoms I enjoy.

I found out the ceremony was scheduled to take place on June 21. The Go Team would be competing for the attention of legislators who would certainly be thinking about the end-of-the-month deadline for the State Budget. Even though this decreased the likelihood that the advocates would be able to deliver their complete speeches, we remained undeterred.

Asm. Louis Greenwald & the Go Team
State House, Trenton, NJ
June 21, 2012
On June 21, the road these advocates had been traveling lead to the State House in Trenton for the honor ceremony. Although I had joined them on their travels only a few months earlier, I considered it an honor simply to attend.

Positioned before the Assembly side by side with Assemblyman Greenwald, each adult glowed with pride.

As anticipated, time did not permit the adults to deliver the prepared speeches. Instead, each advocate improvised, and delivered brief, impromptu statements of gratitude. Despite the size of the audience and the stature of its members, not to mention the anxiety the men and women had expressed before the ceremony, all the advocates spoke serenely.

The Go Team sponsors thanked me many times for my service. They have told me these mentally handicapped men and women with whom I worked could not have done this without me. Personally, I wonder what I really did. I had always believed these men and women would exceed all our expectations.

The Go Team, Sponsors, & Michael Smolensky
State House, Trenton, NJ
June 21, 2012