Public Papers

Remarks to the President's Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities


Good morning. And, Justin, thank you, my dear friend, for that most generous introduction. I'm just delighted to be with all of you. I want to say how pleased I am to see Ed Rensi and thank him for what he and his company are doing in this field of interest to all of us. I had a little opportunity just before I came in here to say hello to another person I admire very much -- Patricia Neal, over here. And then I was glad to see Chris Burke again. Last time I saw him he was running wild in the White House. Not really -- but he came over, and we did a little tape together. But he's doing great, and I'm so proud that he's with us here today.

I'm going to get into real trouble on all this acknowledgment; but I'm delighted, of course, to be with Justin Dart. He is truly a great humanitarian. He's one of the strongest advocates for equal rights and equal opportunity for all Americans that I've ever met, especially those with disabilities. And his hard work and perseverance through adversity benefited all of us. And you have to forgive me for rambling on about Justin. It's just that not only is he a friend but he truly is one of the founding fathers of the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation to ever reach Capitol Hill.

And as I said almost 2 years ago, it is time -- past time -- that people with disabilities are included in the mainstream of American life. As members of a community who are actively involved in helping disabled Americans join the work force, I don't have to tell you that we face many difficulties. More than two-thirds of our fellow citizens with disabilities of working age are, indeed, unemployed; and that is intolerable. And much of that unemployment stems from lack of opportunity. And ADA, that act, will form the foundation for policies and programs that can create opportunities for Americans with disabilities to find and hold jobs and to enjoy the income and satisfaction that productive participation in society brings to us all. And no longer can we allow ignorance or prejudice to deny opportunities to millions of Americans with disabilities.

We recognize your right to equal opportunity, and we need your abilities and skills. Anybody who takes a look at the demographics in this country and looks just over the horizon into the future knows that the problem is going to be not finding jobs for people but finding people for the jobs that exist as we move towards the end of this decade. We welcome you, the disabled, into the mainstream of American life because it is your life as well as ours.

Every American should be able to join the work force to the fullest extent of their abilities. And I am hopeful that the House of Representatives will take action soon on the ADA, just as the Senate took enthusiastic action last September. I look forward to signing a bill that will address the needs of our disabled citizens. And frankly, it is my view that disabled citizens have waited long enough for equality.

Now, I was asked over here for a special purpose. And this morning I have the pleasure of sharing the stage with some truly exemplary Americans. And I wish I had time to introduce each one of them because their efforts are certainly outstanding. There is, however, one individual who deserves special mention. His name is David Schwartzkopf. As you saw -- and I understand you've just seen this video -- David has overcome some extremely tough obstacles -- cerebral palsy, legal blindness, early misdiagnosis -- to become a completely mainstreamed professional in a high-technology industry. Not content to merely be successful in his professional career, David is out in society doing all that he can to help other disabled Americans overcome some big hurdles. His inventions have helped visually impaired people enter the work force, his speeches have inspired management to rethink their hiring practices, and his consulting is helping to bring about equal opportunities. David gives meaning to the words dignity and independence.

And so, it is with great pleasure that I present you, David, with the President's trophy, proclaiming you the 1990 Disabled American of the Year. Congratulations for your help to so many others. Congratulations.

Note: The President spoke at 10:28 a.m. in the Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Justin Dart, Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities; Edward Rensi, president and chief operating officer of McDonald's Corp.; and entertainers Patricia Neal and Chris Burke.