Monday, June 8, 2009

Palin Reappears as Special Needs Advocate

After her unsuccessful bid for vice president, I wondered aloud if Gov. Sarah Palin would honor her pledge to be an advocate for people with disabilities. During the campaign, she said if she were elected, people with disabilities would have an advocate in the White House. I pointed out that she didn't have to be vice president to be an advocate.

On Sunday, Gov. Palin participated in a fundraiser in Long Island, N.Y., for Independent Group Home Living, a nonprofit for children and adults with developmental disabilities. She also spoke at a walk for Autism Speaks. With her were her husband, Todd; their 14-year-old daughter Willow; Palin's sister Heather Bruce, and Bruce's 14-year-old son Karcher, who has autism.

I give her credit for publicly showing her support and for taking the time to make public appearances that raised money for two great causes. But as I expressed during the campaign, why did Palin continually say that giving birth to her son Trig (who has Down Syndrome) was the first time she became aware of disabilities? At that point, her own sister had had a son with autism for more than a decade, yet disability advocates in Alaska universally said her policies as governor showed no understanding or special interest in disabilities.

Imagine you're Palin's sister Heather, in a crowd of 1,000 people, and you hear your sister say:
"Having a son being born with Down Syndrome is a whole new chapter of our lives....It's taken a while for us to get to this point where we can say, 'Thank you, God for allowing us to recognize the special needs community.' Without Trig this would be absent from us."

"Absent from us"? Isn't having a nephew with autism reason enough to champion the cause, especially if you're the governor of your state?
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