Remarks by Justin Dart, Walk the Walk - No Force, Washington, May 2nd 1998.
Justin Dart is a highly respected long-time disability rights activist who is known as the "Father" of the Americans with Disabilities Act. President Clinton presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Martin Luther King Day this year.
Colleagues, I love you. I appeal to you for solidarity in the American dream. Let us keep our eyes on the prize; Liberty and justice for all. Choices for all. No denial of treatment ever. No forced treatment ever.
I congratulate all who have gathered today to support people with psychiatric disabilities. I congratulate Dr. Bernie Arons, the Center for Mental Health Services and all the organizers of Walk the Walk.
I congratulate Donna Shalala, Tipper Gore and Rosalind Carter on their support.
I congratulate David Oaks, the Support Coalition, and all who are participating in our No Force demonstration. I congratulate the National Empowerment Center, Dan Fisher, Judi Chamberlin, Rae Unzicker and all who fight for the rights of psychiatric survivors.
I congratulate President Clinton on taking important steps toward the empowerment of psychiatric survivors. He is the first president to appoint a leader of the psychiatric survivor movement to a policy level position. He is the first president to meet leaders of the psychiatric survivor movement face to face, to listen to their concerns, to take notes.
Colleagues, the culture of human beings stands at an historic crossroads. Thanks to the pioneers of science, thanks to the pioneers of equal opportunity, free enterprise democracy, thanks to you, America has achieved standards of living and of social justice beyond the wildest dreams of our ancestors of only a few centuries ago.
With your leadership people with psychiatric disabilities have recorded dramatic progress toward participation in the mainstream of society. But the job of science and democracy is far from finished. In spite of America's astounding ability to create economic and social prosperity, millions of people with and without disabilities still live in situations of oppression, poverty, and desperation.
People with psychiatric disabilities are still among the most oppressed people in the world. Millions are denied employment, health care, housing. Millions live in abject poverty. Millions are imprisoned in backrooms and institutions, forced to take drugs and other treatments in violation of their most fundamental constitutional rights. All people with psychiatric disabilities are scapegoated daily in the public media.
I submit to you that humanity's old approaches to culture - even the best of them - have reached their useful limits.
I propose that we of the disability communities unite with all who love justice to lead a revolution of empowerment. We have unique knowledge, unique experience, and therefore unique responsibility to lead a revolution, to create a culture that will empower every single individual including all people with psychiatric disabilities, to live his or her god given potential for self determination, productivity and quality of life.
Empowerment means choices - individual choices about where we live, how we live, choices about where we work, how we work and most definitely choices about our health care. All members of a democratic society have a fundamental right to complete quality health care of their own choosing. No forced treatment ever.
We choose our own doctors and medication, we choose the places of our health care. No denial of treatment ever. No forced treatment ever.
Beloved colleagues, there are differences of opinion among us about the exact method of reaching of the Promised Land. But we all agree on the final goal. The best possible quality of life for every American, including every American with a psychiatric disability.
Let us transcend our differences. Let us unite in love and justice. Let us unite in one thundering shout: America! America! Join us in keeping the promise of Jefferson, Lincoln and Martin Luther king. Join us in the revolution of empowerment. America, join us in keeping the sacred pledge: one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Liberty and justice for all means choices for all.
No forced treatment ever.
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