Barker Finds Courage, Strength In Celebration At The White House

Channing Barker, 2010/2011 UATV Recruitment Director and News Producer, was invited to attend an event at The White House to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the passage of a very important law to herself and people across the country. These are her thoughts about her experience:

“The 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act was on tap to celebrate at The White House for July 26th and I was invited.  See, when I was 16 and a junior in high school, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system and can cause blindness, paralysis and memory loss.  This disease stripped me of my ability to dance and the everyday simple skill of walking.  For a time in high school I wasn’t able to walk and I realized, then and now, the importance of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Although this Act went before Congress when I was just  one year old, I never thought it would affect me the way it has.  Without this Act, I wouldn’t have access to wheel chair ramps, educational tools and handicapped spaces when needed.  Although you can look at me and see no inhibitions, I everyday fight with my brain and my memory to remember conversations, history lessons, you name it.

Back to the White House. After standing on Pennsylvania Avenue for a hot hot HOT D.C. afternoon, my I.D. was checked five times and then once more before hitting security.  After I put away my drivers license, I went through the metal detectors and stretched my arms so they could search me for all the metal I was carrying.  Cleared and ready to go, I grinned like a little kid on Christmas as I heard the band and veered toward the White House.  The Presidential Seal. The perfectly cut grass. Oh, the Snipers.  I can’t express the history felt in that place.  And the view from the White House; seeing the Monuments from that view? A once in a lifetime experience.  There were speakers and proclamations, wheelchairs and… sweating.  Lots of it.

Patti LaBelle belted it, and Marlee Matlin signed a speech.  It was all very moving, especially when President Obama came out to speak.  He embraced how far this nation has come in access for the disabled.  He used the “Yes We Can” campaign motto, he tagged as an “age old campaign slogan.”  Obama, I can tell you, empowered the people there.  We were ready to fight the fight for all those who can’t.  I walked off that lawn, fresh with enthusiasm.  My time at the White House gave me just the boost that I hope every American feels after celebrating such an accomplishment.”

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