By Guest Blogger: Mike Hoenig, Member of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa Road to Freedom Tour Planning Committee

(Cedar Rapids, Iowa) August 10, 2007, will go down as a day to remember for disability advocates attending the Road to Freedom Tour/ADA Celebration in Cedar Rapids. Things got underway at 2 PM with tours of Veterans Memorial Stadium and a “meet and greet” with the Cedar Rapids Kernels minor league baseball team. While others were touring the stadium and meeting the players, I took the opportunity to visit the Road to Freedom’s Disability History Exhibit. What a profound experience! I was fascinated to learn that the first recorded reference to disability occurred around 3500 B.C. I was angry all over again when reminded of the segregation, confinement and mistreatment which people with disabilities faced for centuries. And I was inspired all over again by Justin Dart, whose spirit is as alive today as it was when he physically lived among us.

My time for contemplation was short-lived, as old friends and new approached the Freedom Bus and began to shout greetings. Brief remarks byADA Watch’s Jim Ward and a group picture at the bus put everyone in a festive mood.

The mood remained festive as the picnic began. The smell of hot dogs blended with the sounds of Kevin Burt‘s blues band. Kevin, a former CIL advocate turned full-time professional musician, has never lost his passion for the Disability Rights Movement. He played for a greatly reduced fee, and gave us an extra half hour of great music just because he wanted to.

As soon as the music stopped, the speeches began. Using an augmentative communication device, Justin Novak thanked an Iowa state senator for sponsoring a disability history resolution. Disability advocate Katie Beckett spoke on behalf of Senator Clinton‘s presidential candidacy. Carolyn Dodd, after speaking on behalf of her brother Christopher’s presidential candidacy said, “I’m one of you. I want to be a part of the Unity March!” Representatives of the Obama, Edwards and McCain campaigns were also among those who participated in the events throughout the day.

With that, we marched to the stadium. I couldn’t help but notice the diversity and positive energy all around me. That Justin Dart spirit of “we can” was everywhere!

Prior to the start of the baseball game, ADA Watch’s Jim Ward gave an on-field speech about the Road to Freedom and was joined by the Mayor of Cedar Rapids who read a proclamation supporting the ADA. Ward summed things up by saying, “The ADA Restoration Act will make it possible for us to realize our dream of equal access. That includes baseball for all!”

I know in my heart that so long as we have committed people who are willing to give up their home and ride the Freedom Bus for a year, that dream will come true. Thanks for the “shot in the arm” which has renewed my commitment to the Disability Rights Movement. It was just what the PA (sorry, no medical model) ordered.