WASHINGTON, July 26 Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, and Congressman Jim Langevin hosted a reception to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) this afternoon in Statuary Hall of the Capitol. Following the reception, Congressman Langevin, the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress, presided over the House, marking the first time a Member in a wheelchair has ever presided over the House of Representatives. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
"Thank you all. This has been quite an exciting week and especially an exciting day today. As you know, we have what we think is the best possible way to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the passage of the ADA. With kudos to our distinguished Majority Leader, our former Majority Whip, Mr. Coelho, and our colleagues who are here on both sides of the aisle, and in the Senate, Senator Harkin and Senator Dole for their leadership. This has been bipartisan and bicameral, both in the passage and then the amendments to correct what the Supreme Court did not see but we knew was the right way to go. Right, Mr. Sensenbrenner?
"And I want to say about Mr. Sensenbrenner that he has been a champion on this issue relating to the ADA. But he has been a champion on every issue that relates to civil rights in our country. We have been blessed on the Judiciary Committee to have his leadership. I have heard him testify time and again, and it always makes me very, very proud to serve with him in Congress when he is talking about civil rights in Congress.
"So in the course of events, last week we announced that we are going to be here now. This morning, you had a press conference. Later today, people will gather at the White House. And between now and then, Mr. Langevin will go to the floor to make history. And later in the day, when all of the Members are back, we will pass a resolution. And the resolution will say the ADA "fulfills the nation's goals of equality and opportunity, independent living, economic self-sufficiency, and full participation for Americans with disabilities."
"Indeed, over the past 20 years, the ADA has transformed our nation - bringing change to the workplace; to our transportation systems--as Mr. Sensenbrenner indicated--buildings, and services; to all aspects of our daily life.
"It has stood as a shining example of progress for the world to follow. It has made America more accessible - and all Americans are better off.
"Some of the things that were happening outside that led to this--Mr. Coelho and I are Californians. In 1981, I was Chair of the California Democratic Party; he was a leader in this issue. We established what we thought was the first disabilities caucus in a state party in the country. In 1980, just around that same time, the Pope, Pope John Paul, declared 1980 the year of the disabled.
"So I want to thank all of you, for what was going on on the outside to make what happened on the inside of Congress possible with your education of the public, with your insistence on change, intolerance of the status quo. All of you should take a high level of satisfaction in what you did to make the ADA possible and make this day possible. It is a liberation. It is a liberation for people. Steny quotes the Declaration of Independence. This is liberating for people.
"When I was sworn in as Speaker of the House, there was much to do about the first woman Speaker of the House. I said in my remarks then that it honored the heritage and the hope of our country, which is equality for all. Today is another day that honors the heritage and hope of our country, equality for all, because in just a few moments, Jim Langevin will make history by being a first. And he will do it with all of his characteristic dignity. He will do it because, as he acknowledged, [Stephen] Ayers, Tip O'Neill--I was going to say Tip O'Neill's granddaughter Catlin O'Neill, our clerk Lorraine Miller, so many others as has been acknowledged so beautifully by Jim Langevin, had this done in a way that shows the rest of the world it can be done. And it is not only to liberate some but also to enhance the participation of all of us.
"There is a reason Jim Langevin is first. It is because of who he is; the caliber of his leadership, the dignity and modesty of this man in spite of the greatness that he has brought to the Congress. And so it is now my honor to give Jim Langevin the gavel which he will take to the floor and he will preside and make history."
SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House