The Other Story


Charley from the MTA, from BlueMassGroup (diary here) and I were asked to come and meet briefly with Sen. Kerry after a campaign event on Tuesday. The meeting itself has been reported on several blogs and commented on extensively. This is the story that the newspapers didn't report. I don't know about the TV news as I was no where near a TV Tuesday night.

I arrived early and found myself in a packed auditorium. People were everywhere. Wheelchairs of all types, people with a multitude of disabilities and people with none. The faculty and staff at the Perkins School for the Blind were there. Personal Care Attendants were there. Members of SEIU were there. The crowd was electric. On stage was a trio of students playing violin, drums and accordian enthusiastically playing Stars and Stripes Forever, among other things to the great pleasure of the crowd. I watched from the front corner of the balcony where I stood as all the seats were filled.

I watched as a screen flashed in yellow letters on a blue background the words that were spoken almost as quickly as they were uttered. I saw no one typing them but I did see the laptop that was plugged into the projector. Two different women were on the stage to sign for the hearing impaired. I watched as two Personal Care Assistants in the front two rows were tactilely signed the entire program with both of their hands enfolded by the hands of their clients. I saw a myriad of devices used for communication, the kind of communication that most of us take for granted—spoken words.

This event was FOR the disability community. I felt like I was crashing someone else's party in a way. But I also felt privileged to be there. The Perkins community gave me a gift of a glimpse into their lives. They didn't know it, I was irrelevant to the event which was as it should be.

What I saw in the two politicians, Sen. Kerry, and soon-to-be Gov. Patrick was a connection, a deep connection with the people in this community. They both have been involved in one way or another with the Americans With Disabilities Act. They showed a compassionate understanding of the issues, the multiple issues, faced by the people they were surrounded by. They spoke briefly from the stage with no script, Deval only minimally referring to a list of issues on the podium next to him.

Then they went onto the floor and took questions. They engaged with people face to face, wherever that face happened to be, in a chair or standing. They listened. They answered what they could. They heard what they were there to hear. It was obvious to me that this was no ordinary campaign event. I heard Deval say some of the same things I have heard him say before, but it was different here.

This was not about the donors, the debate "issues" the commercials, the necessary part of politics that wear away at candidates day after day. This was about listening, about paying attention to a community that needs the state and the government to be on their "team." This was about politics in its truest sense as the "work of the people." It was about hope. My estimation of both men kicked up a notch. I am glad I was given the gift of a glimpse of this world.

There is a reason that the motto of the Perkins School is "All We See is Possibility."