THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN OPENING REMARKS TO THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ROUNDTABLE
10:22 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Secretary Rubin, Attorney General Reno; to the distinguished members of this panel, Senator Harkin and Congressman Hoyer, Chairman Coehlo, Dr. Hitt, Gil Casellas, Marca Bristo; the members of the administration who are here -- I see Reed Hunt and Patsy Fleming out there -- I thank all of you for being here to celebrate this fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Five years ago, when the ADA became law, we became the first nation in the world to commit ourselves to equal rights and equal opportunities for all citizens with disabilities. Because of the ADA, our country is stronger today. Our fellow citizens are being judged by their ability to contribute, not by their disabilities. Now, all of you, and millions of others all across this country have an opportunity they never had before to make the most of their own lives.
That opportunity is critical to what we have to do as a nation to meet the great challenges we face and to move forward into the next century. In many ways, the ADA is the perfect example of what I mean when I talk about our job is to create more opportunity and demand more responsibility from all of our citizens.
The ADA has meant more opportunity for 49 million Americans with disabilities to their part to make us a stronger and better country. It has meant that more people could go to work and participate in community life, and do things that most Americans take for granted, like helping to take care of their families or getting a good education or registering and voting. It's also a perfect example of what I have meant in recent weeks when I have urged the American people to come together to find common ground in order to move forward together as a nation.
That was true across party lines. Members of both parties, including three who are here today -- Senators Harkin, Representative Hoyer and former Congressman Tony Coehlo -- fought for the ADA in the Congress. And President Bush signed it into law. The ADA became law because Americans like so many of you worked together in the best interest of everyone, putting party behind country. There was a realization that the best way to keep our country moving forward was to allow every American, regardless of whether he or she used a wheelchair, was blind, had a mental disability or was HIV positive, to live up to his or her God-given potential.
And today, even as we celebrate the rights gained under the ADA, the budget cuts proposed by the congressional majority would sharply reduce the services and the supports that enable people to effectively exercise the rights granted by the ADA. Under the proposed cuts, states would be forced to drop 1.4 million people with disabilities from Medicaid rolls, and 4 million disabled Americans on Medicare would have to pay more every year for the same health care. They also have proposed eliminating funds for training special education teachers.
Now, we have to join together to maintain our commitment and our common ground. I will vigorously implement and enforce the ADA through the Cabinet and the administration. We will not allow Americans with disabilities to be kept from realizing their dreams by closed doors or narrowed minds.
We should also celebrate, all of us, this fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the best way possible: By all, each of us, rededicating ourselves to creating a society of equal access and equal rights for all. That is the best kind of affirmative action for all the American people.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 10:26 A.M. (EDT)