Last week, news broke about Governor Patterson of New York and his response to a sketch on Saturday Night Live. The sketch came in the wake of the Illinois scandal surrounding Governor Blagojevich and his sale of President Elect Obama's Senate seat. In the sketch, Patterson was asked about the soon to be vacated New York Senate seat of Hillary Clinton. Rather than poke fun at the personality of the Patterson, or the ridiculous state of politics in Illinois, Saturday Night Live focused on Patterson's disability. I wanted to write something about the way Patterson responded to the sketch, I response I found very enlightening and helpful to other people whose disability may sometimes be the subject of jokes, but my friend Joe Stramondo has already published a very good essay on the subject. So, rather than repeat what Joe wrote, I invite everyone to check out his blog at www.philosophercrip.com.
On the subject of politics surrounding the new presidential administration, last week, President-elect Obama announced Arne Duncan, the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, as his choice for Secretary of Education. Similar to many other communities around the country, much of the disability rights community rallied around the election of Obama. His victory on November 4 sent a wave of excitement through the community, particularly when Obama said the words disabled and non-disabled in his acceptance speech.
Since the November 4 victory, also similar to many communities around the country, the disability community has been furiously organizing in an effort to voice the concerns of people with disabilities when it comes to presidential appointments and policies. As Obama fills out his cabinet, concern lingers. While I am not a political expert and don't know the politics of most people tagged by Obama, my work in Chicago has exposed me to the politics of Duncan.
Though Duncan has earned a national reputation as a reformer through his work with Charter Schools, the record shows that disability reform has lagged behind.
My hope is that, with pressure and with help from the disability community, Obama, and members of his cabinet, including Duncan, will fulfill the hopes of the community raised during the election.