On March 28, 2008, State Representative Byron Rushing, a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives leadership team, a person of history, and an unflinching civil rights advocate, spoke at BCIL's annual Advocates Summit.
Below are excerpts from his comments:
"What you demand is so reasonable and it makes so much sense. What you are doing is absolutely necessary. You defend the rights of everybody in this city and in this state, when you defend the rights of people with disabilities.
You deserve to be treated with the dignity that we all deserve - because we all deserve to be treated with dignity. You have been effective in saying how the majority of people have to change.
People speak easily about freedom and democracy in this country, but it is important to understand how few years this idea has been on the scene. These were radical ideas 230 years ago, too radical even for those who invented them then. However, once these words were written they no longer belonged to the people who wrote them, they belonged to those who heard them. And women heard them, black people heard them, people of every religion and ethnicity heard them , gays and lesbians heard them - and you are making sure that people with disabilities are hearing them.
When I was involved in the civil rights movement in the 60s, white people used to ask us 'what do you people want?' And a friend came up with a reply, after hearing this so much: 'What do you want for your family? You want a good home, a good job, good healthcare, to be treated with respect and dignity. Is that what you want? OK. Write it all down and sign my name! That's what we want.'
We must continue to denounce barriers to opportunity put before any people by others. People with disabilities should be treated as everyone should be treated. You are in the forefront of the movement for justice in this country. Never, ever, let anyone say what you are doing is self serving. It is serving the community. It is serving the whole Commonwealth. It is serving all of us."