The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver

2009 Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day

Empire State Plaza, Well Of The Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY
Monday, May 11, 2009

{As Prepared For Delivery}

Thank you, Michele, [Assembly Member Titus] for that gracious introduction and thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your warm reception.

Welcome to Albany and to the Assembly's annual "Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day." I bring you the greetings of my colleagues in the Assembly Majority along with our best wishes for an enlightening and enjoyable day here at the Empire State Plaza.

This year, for the first time in memory, the members of the Assembly Minority - led by Minority Leader Brian Kolb - are co-sponsoring Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day.

This verifies what I have been telling you for so long, that the issues that matter to you are not political issues. They are issues of fairness, of justice, of equality and opportunity for all New Yorkers.

I am delighted that the full New York State Assembly is standing here in support of New Yorkers with disabilities, today.

My friends, I commend you - each and every one of you - for traveling here to speak for the thousands of New Yorkers with disabilities who could not come to Albany today to speak for themselves. All New Yorkers do indeed, benefit from the battles you are fighting. For your courage and for your perseverance, I commend you.

To those of you who are dedicated to serving and advocating for people with disabilities, let me take a moment to express my respect and my admiration. Not only is your calling a noble one, it is essential to the integrity of our Democracy.

When we allow the rights of one community or another to be neglected or ignored, then the rights of all New Yorkers are put at risk. So, I commend all of you, for the great work that you are doing.

Speaking of commendations, let me congratulate this year's "Doctor Henry J. Viscardi, Jr. Advocacy Award" winner, Harvey Rosenthal, Executive Director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.

My congratulations as well to the winning artists and to all of the children who participated in our Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day poster contest.

Let me acknowledge Girl Scout Troop 1008 from Ghent, New York - along with their Troop Leader, Caroline O'Neill - who are volunteering their time here today to help us make this event a great success. My thanks to the Girls Scouts.

And on behalf of the Assembly, let me also express my appreciation to all of our exhibitors and seminar presenters. #

If you have taken part in our past Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day events, then you know that in the Assembly, you have leaders you can count on;

Leaders who are listening to you and taking action on your recommendations;

Leaders who are defending your rights to fairness and equity, integration, independence and accessibility day in and day out across this state.

As Speaker of the Assembly, I know better than most what great advocates and what talented leaders you have in our Task Force Chair, Assembly Member Michelle Titus and in all of our Task Force members;

In our Mental Health Committee Chair, Assembly Member Peter Rivera, and all of the committee members;

In our exceptional Task Force Executive Director, Kim Hill;

And in all of the Assembly members on both sides of the aisle, who were here earlier, who are here now, and who will be meeting with you as the day goes on.

We work with you continuously to craft legislation to ensure that men, women and children with disabilities receive the same opportunities for self-empowerment and self-fulfillment that all New Yorkers expect and deserve.

In fact, this afternoon, the Assembly will take up a comprehensive, 14-bill "Disabilities Awareness Legislative Agenda" to accomplish these goals. We developed these bills in concert with you and we intend to pass all 14 bills this week.

Of course, you have many more friends in this government as well, including our governor - Governor David Paterson - who has demonstrated for all the world to recognize, that a person with a disability is not a person without capability.

Let's not forget that New Yorkers also have strong and aggressive champions of social justice in our Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, in our State Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, in Senator Malcolm Smith, and in the new Senate Majority.

I know you have legislators to meet and exhibitors on hand, so let me close by repeating what I say every year on Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day. The Legislature and the Governor answer to you. We work for you. No elected leader in this Empire State Plaza, no elected leader anywhere in this state, is more important than you are. So, make your voices heard. Be direct. Be persistent. Educate your elected leaders. That is how you make democracy work better.

Please remember that my door and the doors my Assembly colleagues will always be open to you, and by all means, make today the most successful Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day ever!

Thank you.