America celebrated the life of a beloved president last week. We watched the Bush family and the nation mourn. We heard wonderful memories about the late President.
As it happens, I have my own memory of President George H.W. Bush.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, I was asked to help with a campaign event just before the election. On the day of the event, after my assigned work was done, I managed to find a spot on the rope line in hopes that I would have a chance to say hello to President Bush.
The handlers and agents were moving President Bush rapidly down the line and he was shaking hands as he passed. He stopped right in front of me, maybe because I had my left hand extended instead of the customary right hand used for greeting since it was encased in plaster from the tips of my fingers to my elbow.
He asked me about the cast and I jokingly said I’d hit my boyfriend after he got fresh with me. When I gave a serious answer to his question, that I was 3 weeks post op from reparations to a badly broken wrist from a fall, he gave me another quick once over. Noticing the streamlined forearm crutches peeking out from the sides of my full skirt, he instructed his security detail to lift the rope and bring me along with them so that I would not be crushed by the sheer size and movement of the crowd.
Once we were clear of the line, he chatted with me a bit, asking my thoughts on the legislation he had signed about two years earlier, the Americans with Disabilities Act. I could barely contain my emotion as I thanked him for the legislation that had already allowed me new opportunities to achieve my full potential. He smiled quietly and said, “Good. I was hoping for CAVU.”
Because of the din around us, I thought he had said, “I hoped you were being cared for” since “CAVU" didn’t make sense to me. It was only while listening to Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks on Monday night that I finally understood what President Bush had said to me that day. CAVU is a naval aviator's term meaning "Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited"
When the full impact of it hit me, I wept with ugly sobs in deep appreciation and grief for the man who had championed the more than 48 million Americans (including this one) who navigate life with a physical, intellectual or developmental disability.
Disability issues are often defined as being a left of center bailiwick, but they are not. The inception of the ADA, which Bush signed in 1990, along with its intents and results have made living fully integrated into their communities more readily achievable for many Americans. I am one of them. As with any piece of civil rights legislation, there have been abuses and inappropriate overreaches under the ADA.
Appropriate knowledge and education of the actual parameters of the law will stop those things in their tracks, along with the frivolous lawsuits that have become rampant.
President Bush had to work across party lines in both the House and the Senate to get the ADA passed. He built a bipartisan coalition of legislators, disabled veterans, people with lifelong disabilities and their families that would stand firm against the detractors who said that it would be too expensive or too intrusive to create fully inclusive environments.
He understood that America is her best self when everyone, regardless of perceived limitations, is given the opportunity to fully participate. Because of this prudent foresight and perseverance, I and millions of others have been afforded opportunities that would not have otherwise been readily available. We have been able to fully access the American dream instead of being relegated to a literal or figurative corner.
In memory of the late President, I look forward to helping Republicans of all persuasions reclaim our place in the civil rights arena to continue building a stronger and better America that includes everyone.
As stated before, although there have been excessive uses of the ADA, access doesn’t have to expensive. Data shows that the average workplace accommodation is $500. Inclusion costs nothing more than the decision to be civil – to treat others as you wish to be treated by having open hearts and minds to look for ways to connect with the people around you.
Fair winds and following seas, Mr. President. Thanks for the legislation that was for me the ultimate CAVU. Because of it, I can share in the watch.