Another day at the White House, another chance for President Obama to make history for people with disabilities. And, he did just that.
On Friday, June 26, 2009, President Barack Obama became one of the very few sitting American Presidents to personally greet and welcome persons who are deaf-blind to the White House Oval Office.
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(President Barack Obama meets with a group from the Helen Keller National Center in the Oval Office June 26, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The group featured five young adults (Crystal Morales, Kelvin Crosby, Virginia Jordan, Divya Goel, and Jason Corning) affiliated with the Helen Keller National Center ("HKNC") including a musician with two CDs to her credit, a surfer and aspiring field goal kicker, a Cum Laude graduate who wants to start a school, an aspiring restaurant manager, and a winner of the Wisconsin Council for Exceptional Children "Yes I Can" award for Advocacy and Independent Living. Two staff members and 3 volunteers from the HKNC also joined the young adults.
They were in D.C. to celebrate Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week. This year’s theme for the week was Deaf-Blindness Didn’t Stop with Helen Keller. The focus of the week was to demonstrate that successful deaf-blind persons are still thriving and excelling long after Helen Keller.
The week culminated with their visit to the White House. They visited the White House in the morning, where they received a tour of the public residence. From hanging out in the First Lady’s East Reception Room, to playing the same piano played by Stevie Wonder, to visiting the China Room, the tour was a major hit with the young adults. They returned in the afternoon for the icing on the already incredibly rich cake to take a photo with the President in the Oval Office. The President congratulated the young adults on their accomplishments and reminded them that we remain committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities.
This visit was not and should not be viewed as a sympathetic thing for the President to do. Rather, it reflects this President’s commitment to, and understanding of, the desire for all people with disabilities to be fully integrated into society. These young adults are proof that if provided with the necessary supports and services, people with disabilities can and will achieve anything they desire. Recognizing Deaf-Blind Awareness Week by inviting these young adults to the White House further solidifies the extraordinary commitment of this entire administration to all people with disabilities.
Kareem Dale is Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy.