In our family, summer wouldn’t be complete without the exciting and unpredictable adventure of a road trip. This year, our plans are both practical and enjoyable. It’s time for our son to begin the great college search -- and so as we make our way to and from Washington D.C., we plan to visit a few school campuses. Thankfully, it doesn’t cost anything to look and dream.
Cruising the highways and byways in our truck while towing a trailer, the West family is an interesting sight to see. Some nights, we camp in Wal-Mart parking lots [incidentally, so does Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who reportedly loves to drive his RV across the country during the summer months]. Don’t be surprised if many of the future articles in this space will cover some of the wildly entertaining and challenging events of the trip.
One of the cool things about visiting Washington D.C. revolves around the opportunity to visit the U.S. Capitol. What a mighty architectural marvel! In order to enjoy the bonus of a special tour, we contacted our representative several months in advance. In short order we received an appointment time along with very specific instructions. We’ll be there!
But this got me thinking. It’s not too often that I’m afforded the honor to speak to my elected official. Surely, this will be a quick hello and a brief “thanks for your support” kind of meeting. But what would I say if I really had his ear, or what if I were invited to speak my mind in front of Congress or more likely, before a committee hearing? What would I say?
I’ve thought about it.
I’d begin my addressing the need to prioritize our problems and challenges. In the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution, it states that the nation is committed to promoting “the general welfare” of the Union. But what is our “general welfare” anyway? The American Heritage Dictionary’s definition is as follows: “Health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being.” Posted on the website http://www.usconstitution.net is a note that reads:
“Welfare in today's context also means organized efforts on the part of public or private organizations to benefit the poor, or simply public assistance. This is not the meaning of the word as used in the Constitution.”
Ours is a large country with a litany of challenges as long as any list. Unemployment is nearing ten percent, personal savings are low and credit is tight and nearly every state is running major deficits. People are struggling to find ways to pay the bills.
Those with disabilities are in the same boat.
Our country was not built on Citibank but on the backs of individuals who sacrificed and sweated blood and shed tears. As the government continues to dole out billions of dollars in the form of corporate welfare, I’m struck by the fact that for every dollar given to a failed company, there is less and less of our money being allocated to support and fund those organizations committed to serving Americans with disabilities.
Maybe I’m a simpleton but what would be the long-term harm of letting a company go under? When a portion of our hard-earned tax dollars goes into a corporate black hole, we never quite see what, if anything was really accomplished.
But what about those dollars invested in people with a disability? Can anything compare to seeing a physically challenged person learn to walk – or an autistic child speak for the first time? No.
Granted, my perspective is shaded by being the parent of a young man with a disability. But when I read the Constitution, especially the words about the goal of maintaining the “general welfare” of the country, I can’t help but believe we’ve run the train off the track.
Maybe if we concentrated on providing for those who really needed our support instead of running after those of questionable ethics and needs, we’d see our priorities fall into proper place.
Perhaps I’ll ask my representative why Congress continues to vote themselves a pay raise or pay billions and trillions to companies that continue to get themselves into trouble. Yet, at the same time, the support for families and individuals with disabilities continues to decrease.
Stay tuned. I’ll let you know how I’m received – or if I run into Justice Thomas outside Wal-Mart.