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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I come to the floor with a bit of a heavy heart today because I think the Senate may not act to approve the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I would say the issue is not going away. I think there are too many Americans and too many veterans organizations and too many people who are committed to this cause, that over time we may have every chance and every opportunity to succeed.

I remind my colleagues that virtually every major veterans organization in America supports the treaty, people who represent those men and women who have fought and particularly try to assist those with disabilities that are the result of combat. They are AMVETS; the Air Force Sergeants Association; Air Force Women Officers Associated; the American GI Forum; the Association of the United States Navy; the Blinded Veterans Association; Disabled American Veterans; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Jewish War Veterans; the Military Officers Association of America; the National Association of Black Veterans; the National Guard Association of the United States; the National Military Family Association; Paralyzed Veterans of America; the American Legion; Veterans for Common Sense; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Veterans of Modern Warfare; VetsFirst, a program of the United Spinal Association; Vietnam Veterans of America; and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the statement of all these veterans organizations be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I commend to my colleagues a very moving letter to the U.S. Senate from a very famous man, a Chinese dissident who was blinded, who recently was able to leave China, which was printed in the Record yesterday.

I will not quote from his whole letter. He says:

This treaty is making this idea real in significant ways around the world. Today there are over 1 billion people with disabilities, and 80 percent of them live in developing countries. Disability rights is an issue that the world cannot afford to overlook. When the United States enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act over 20 years ago, the idea of true equality for people with disabilities became a reality. Many nations have followed in America's footsteps and are now coming together under shared principles of equality, respect and dignity for people with disabilities as entailed in the treaty.

The United States, which was instrumental in negotiating this treaty, can continue to advance both its principles and issues of practical accessibility for its citizens and all people around the world and, by ratifying the treaty, so take its rightful place of leadership in the arena of human rights.

That is what this is all about--American leadership, American leadership in the world. I don't know how many millions of people around the world are deprived of the same rights that Bob Dole and Tom Harkin and so many others made possible, but do I know this is an expression of American leadership throughout the world--I think an obligation America should embrace.

I would like to read a statement by our distinguished former colleague and leader, Bob Dole. More than a dear friend, Bob remains an authentic hero to millions of his countrymen, someone whose personal example of wartime sacrifice was equaled--if such a thing is possible--by his service in this body. He is respected wherever people value political courage and civility.

Bob Dole returned from World War II, one of the countless wounded warriors whose defense of our liberty curtailed his own. Gravely injured, disabled for life, he developed a unique personal understanding of his fellow Americans excluded from the mainstream. In the years that followed, Bob fought to ensure not only that no American would be relegated to the back of the bus but also, in the case of the disabled, that no one would be prevented from boarding the bus.

Bob Dole has been our leader on the issue of disabilities from the moment he stepped foot into the Chamber. To Bob, it is unthinkable that Americans
could not get over a curb or enter a school building or even watch a debate in this Chamber if they were in a wheelchair.

On April 14, 1969, the same date he was injured in the hills of Italy 24 years earlier, he made his maiden speech on the topic of Americans with disabilities. In every legislative initiative since then, Bob Dole has been a leader on behalf of people with disabilities, bills such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA; the Developmental Disabilities Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He was responsible for including people with disabilities in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and for ensuring that people with disabilities are part of the State Department's annual report on human rights around the world.

After leaving this Chamber, Bob Dole prompted the Congress to pass the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999--breakthrough legislation on health care and employment for people with disabilities.

This past year he has been instrumental in working with the administration and Congress to ensure bipartisan support for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to reflect American leadership and values and safeguarding the rights of every individual in the world.

I ask unanimous consent for an additional 3 minutes to be added on to the time of the vote.

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