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An Open Letter to Senator Harkin from a Senate Intern


July 25, 2013 by

Dear Senator Harkin,

Source: ABC Online

23 years ago you did an incredible thing. You acknowledged that disabled people have been treated for centuries as second class citizens and moved to attempt to solve the problem.You told Congress that disabled people are people. You told the American people I mattered. You wrote a law, the Americans with disabilities act. And it was passed.

One year ago, I saw you speak for the first time. You were speaking as testimony for the UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities. As a senate intern for Senator Nelson, I got the chance to attend the committee. I sat right behind you, and I was completely star struck. As you extolled the moral imperative of extending the rights of disabled people to the global scale, I had to blink back tears, being weary of the surrounding CSPAN cameras. The father of the ADA was sitting right in front of me. You were sitting right in front of me telling the entire Foreign Relations committee what’s up.

I saw you a second time when you were getting off the underground Capitol train at the Hart Office Building stop. There you were, this imposing force that represented for me the power of policy and enacting change. I timidly waved and squeaked “hello, senator”. You smiled and waved back. In my statue eyed haze, I almost followed you onto the senators only elevator. Luckily a fellow intern wheeled me back around. A narrowly missed faux pas to the max.
Today you acknowledge that though the ADA was a huge turning point, it’s not enough. To honor the ADA anniversary is to make it a stronger enforceable law. America is far behind the ADA’s intended goals. For instance, you understand that when I apply for a job, I still am terrified of being overlooked the second I walk in the door.
You’ve brought to light glaring loopholes that make navigating daily life a continued constant struggle. Accessibility is a right, not a granted favor. I’m sure you know that, too.
When I almost accidentally followed onto the elevator, I did so because I eagerly wanted to thank you. Yet the words hitched in my throat, and my nerves had other plans. I spent the rest of the day lamenting my missed chance.
So now, Senator Harkin, I want to make up for it. I’m going to say what I couldn’t coming of the train. Thank you. It was because of you that I was able to work there at all. In the wake of your retirement, know that your work mattered, at least to this intern.
Most Appreciatively yours,


  1. Don Chadwick says:

    What a great letter Megan……

  2. psumama says:

    What a difference he has made. Thanks for sharing!

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