Review By: CarolAnn Popovich
July 31, 2018
On July 30, 2018, the RespectAbility organization (https://www.respectability.org/) conducted its second annual summit on fighting stigmas and advancing future opportunities for the near 40 million Americans with disabilities (U.S. Census Bureau). The summit, “From Washington to Hollywood and Beyond: The Future of Americans with Disabilities” (https://www.respectability.org/2018/02/washington-hollywood-beyond-future-americans-disabilities/) was free for anyone to attend. For those unable to participate in the summit, the event was streamed live via Facebook.
Over 25 years ago, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a comprehensive law protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities, was passed. This law was intended to allow individuals with disabilities to participate more fully in their communities, gain greater and more complete access to goods and services, as well as to equalize the playing field when competing for jobs. Sadly, 28 years later, Americans with disabilities continue to suffer discrimination in all areas of their life to include where they live, where they go to school, and where they work.
The primary focus of the summit was fighting implicit bias through the onscreen industry. Hollywood’s portrayal of individuals with disabilities is nearly non-existent. Currently, less than 3% of the TV and film industry characters represent stories and voices of individuals with disabilities. These on-screen deficits occur behind the camera as well – sadly, at greater levels. The summit was convincing: advocacy and action surrounding on-screen and behind camera representation of individuals with disabilities must increase. When future conversations and TV and film industry successes increase, positive trends for individuals with disabilities will also increase.
Hollywood is not the only industry that needs to change and increase its hiring practices for individuals with disabilities. Many companies and organizations across the nation are also guilty of exclusionary hiring practices and are slow to embrace change or to counter explicit and implicit biases of individuals with disabilities. However, JPMorgan Chase & Co is not one of those companies. JPMorgan Chase & Co is a firm committed to inclusivity and to a robust and enlightened culture that includes professionals with disabilities.
Jim Sinocchi, Head of the Office of Disability Inclusion at JPMorgan Chase & Co, spoke on “Four-Fold Improvement in New Hobs for People with Disabilities: What’s Driving it and How We Continue Improving.” He discussed how at JPMorgan Chase & Co, they don’t just hire people with disabilities; they develop leaders with disabilities. JPMorgan Chase & Co and Sinocchi believe that just as companies teach non-disabled people, they can also teach individuals with disabilities how to be leaders. During his discussion, Sinocchi shared the how implicit biases are linked to negative consequences not only for the individual but also for the company. He stated that companies that fail to hire individuals with disabilities failed to look like the like the population they serve. JPMorgan Chase & Co is committed to looking like those they serve and hope to serve.
The conversations and presentations at the “From Washington to Hollywood and Beyond: The Future of Americans with Disabilities” summit was diverse, energetic, and captivating. They ranged from real-life stories to topics that included policy, advocacy, program management, mainstream media, and how every individual can be a champion of the campaign to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for individuals with disabilities. I was delighted I carved time in my busy schedule to attend this event – I left with greater appreciation and understanding of the need to be an evangelist able to clearly and effectively communicate and advocate for positive trends in the future Americans with disabilities.
8:00 AM – Registration and Networking
9:00 AM – Welcome by Calvin Harris, Chair, RespectAbility
9:10 AM – Education and High Expectations for Students with Disabilities
- Johnny Collett, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education
9:35 AM – Improving Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities
- Jennifer Sheehy, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor
10:00 AM – PANEL: Four-Fold Improvement in New Jobs for People with Disabilities: What’s Driving It and How We Continue Improving
- Moderator: Donn Weinberg, Chair, Philanthropy Roundtable
- Janet LaBreck, Disability Employment, Expert
- Ron Painter, Executive Director of the National Association of Workforce Boards
- Vincenzo Piscopo, Community & Stakeholder, Relations Director, The Coca-Cola Company
- Jim Sinocchi, Office of Disability Inclusion, JPMorgan Chase
11:00 AM – EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM AWARD to Judy Woodruff, Host, PBS NewsHour
11:30 AM – Breaking the Glass Ceiling (introduced by Vivian Bass)
- Ollie Cantos, Board of Advisors, RespectAbility
- Leo, Nick and Steven Cantos (blind triplets who are each Eagle Scouts)
12:00 PM – Lunch: How to Have an Impact in Washington
- Moderator: Calvin Harris, Chair, RespectAbility
- Rep. Brad Sherman, California
- Other members of Congress TBA
1:30 PM – PANEL: Fighting Implicit Bias Through TV and Film
- Moderator: Jonathan Murray, Reality TV Pioneer, Bunim/Murray
- Jeanette Betancourt, SVP, U.S. Social Impact, Sesame Workshop
- Rachel Dretzin, Director, Far From the Tree
- Crystal R. Emery, Director, Black Women in Medicine
- Andrew Solomon, Ph.D., Award-Winning Author, Far From the Tree
2:45 PM – PANEL: Importance of Intersectionality: Enabling People of Color and Immigrants with Disabilities to Succeed
- Moderator: Donna Walton, Founder and President, Divas With Disabilities Project
- Stephanie Farfan, National Leadership Alumna, RespectAbility
- Kaity Hagen, National Leadership Fellow, RespectAbility
- Clarence Page, Columnist, Chicago Tribune
3:45 PM – EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM AWARD to Joe Shapiro, Correspondent, NPR Investigations (presented by Eleanor Clift)
4:15 PM – A Look to the Future Featuring RespectAbility Board Members, Staff and Fellows
4:30 PM – Networking Reception
Vivian Bass, Board of Directors, RespectAbility
Vivian G. Bass was elected as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Jewish Women International (JWI) in July 2016. Bass has dedicated her career to improving the quality of life, independence and community inclusion and dignity of persons with disabilities throughout the Washington, D.C., area, nationally and internationally. She became the CEO Emeritus of The Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH) in June 2016 subsequent to serving for 30 years at the helm of the agency, which ultimately grew to 77 residential locations via a wide variety of models, two innovative transition youth programs, a staff of 260, and having $28 million in total assets. As JFGH continued to become a model for more than 25 communities over five continents, Bass travelled extensively, mentoring these communities wishing to emulate the JFGH Program. Bass has presented at The World Congress on Disabilities in conjunction with the Paralympics, The National Organization on Disability (NOD), The American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), The General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America, The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), The International Lion of Judah Conference and numerous others. She served as a board officer for Leadership Montgomery, Md. and currently is on the board of The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). She was a founding board member of Potomac Community Resources (PCR), which evolved from the local Catholic Community. Bass is a Lion of Judah (“Woman of Valor”), the highest distinction internationally for Jewish women. Bass remains loyally engaged with The University of Michigan, where she pursued both her undergraduate and graduate studies in Special Education.
Jeanette Betancourt, Ed. D., SVP of U.S. Social Impact, Sesame Workshop
Dr. Betancourt directs the development and implementation of community and family engagement initiatives making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and their families. These research-based initiatives are designed to impact children’s early learning, health and well-being, and provide strategies and resources to counteract the effects of trauma while fostering the critical connections that adults have on children’s lives. Prior to joining Sesame Workshop, Dr. Betancourt created programs in adult learning and early childhood education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a licensed bilingual speech and language pathologist and educational therapist. She participates on several national and local boards and has contributed to the start of charter schools. Dr. Betancourt has a BA and MA in Speech and Language Pathology; an MS in Bilingual Reading/Special Education, and an Ed.D. in Special Education.
Ollie Cantos, Board of advisors, RespectAbility
Cantos has been active in the civil rights arena since 1990. He is Special Assistant to the Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education and Member of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID). He is also Chairman of the Board of Advisors for Scholarships for Eagles, Board Member of the Virginia Organization of Parents of Blind Children, Attorney Mentor for the American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights, and Member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. He is most grateful for his adoption of three blind triplet boys – Leo, Nick, and Steven.
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast
Eleanor Clift is a columnist for the Daily Beast, an online publication where she writes about politics and culture. She previously worked for Newsweek, where she covered a variety of beats and was a key member of the magazine’s election team. Her cover story for Newsweek about the television show, Mad Men, won acclaim for capturing the era when women were relegated to the secretarial pool. Clift is perhaps best known as a panelist on the syndicated talk show, “The McLaughlin Group,” which last year ended a record 34-year run with the death of host and creator, John McLaughlin. She has appeared as herself in several movies, including “Dave,” “Independence Day,” “Murder at 1600,” and the CBS show, “Murphy Brown.” She has authored or co-authored several books, including, “Selecting a President,” “Founding Sisters and the 19th Amendment,” “Two Weeks of Life: A Memoir of Love, Death and Politics,” “Madam President: Blazing the Leadership Trail,” and “War Without Bloodshed: The Art of Politics.” Clift lives in Washington, D.C., where she is on the advisory council of the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Boards of the Center for Politics and Journalism and the American News Women’s Club and the Board of Governor’s of the National Hospice Foundation.
Johnny W. Collett, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education
Johnny Collett is the assistant secretary in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education. In this capacity, he serves as the advisor to the U.S. education secretary on matters related to the education of children and youths with disabilities, as well as employment and community living for youths and adults with disabilities. Prior to joining the department, Collett served as the program director of special education outcomes at the Council of Chief State School Officers. Collett also served at the Kentucky Department of Education as the state’s special education director, as an assistant division director, and as an exceptional children consultant.
Rachel Dretzin, Director, Far From The Tree
Dretzin has been honored with numerous awards for her documentaries, including the Emmy Award, the Peabody, the Du-Pont Columbia and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. For many years she has directed and produced documentaries for “Frontline,” PBS’ eminent documentary series. With her husband, filmmaker Barak Goodman, Dretzin is co-founder of Ark Media, a Brooklyn-based production company and a leading producer of nonfiction content. She has produced films for MSNBC, ABC and WNET. She has been a faculty member of the graduate program in social documentary at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. She graduated with honors from Yale University and lives in Brooklyn, where she has three teenage children.
Crystal R. Emery, Director, Black Women in Medicine
Emery is a dynamic producer, author and filmmaker known for producing socially-conscious storytelling on a variety of platforms that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit. Her groundbreaking feature-length documentary, Black Women in Medicine, has now been seen by over 12 million viewers globally and screened in American embassies around the world from Ethiopia to Germany. Emery is also the founder and CEO of URU The Right To Be, Inc., a non-profit content production company that tackles social issues via film, theater, publishing, educational media and other arts-based initiatives. She is a member of the Producers’ Guild of America, New York Women in Film and Television and she sits on the committee of 100Kin10’s Increasing Women’s Visibility in STEM.
Stephanie Farfan, Young Disability Advocate
Stephanie Farfan was a Policy Fellow in the National Leadership Program at Respectability. She always has been committed to disability rights, particularly for the dwarfism community as she is a little person. She has experienced firsthand the discrimination many people with disabilities face. This discrimination led to her commitment to fight the stigmas and social barriers that people with disabilities have to contend with to be taken seriously. Farfan has been a part of Little People of America (LPA) since she was 16 years old and volunteers her time as a co-chair for the Hispanic Affairs Committee. Her fluency in Spanish enables her to help Spanish-speaking little people and their families get the resources and support they may otherwise not have access to. Farfan especially enjoys going to LPA conferences because there’s no party quite like a dwarf party. Farfan completed her undergraduate studies with a major in Peace and Conflict Studies and a minor in French at Juniata College in Pennsylvania. While there, she was the only little person on her campus – so naturally, it was quite difficult looking up all the time. Farfan had the opportunity to study abroad in Lille, France while at Juniata. She loved the experience and was grateful that the opportunity allowed her to improve her French. After graduation, Farfan moved back home to Florida. There, she worked at a number of interesting places – most notably a karate studio and a security and detective agency. Unfortunately, she does not know karate and also is not a private investigator, so please do not ask. Tired of the Florida sun, Farfan came to Washington, D.C., hoping to continue her studies. She was accepted to American University’s School of International Service, where she is studying International Peace and Conflict Resolution. She hopes to combine the experience she has working with the Latino community and her academic work in peace studies into a career that can help the international disability community. Eventually, she aspires to earn a Ph.D. in the peace field and hopes to open doors in academia for people with disabilities and foster intersectional inclusivity through her social activism. In her spare time, Farfan loves to cook and always is looking to expand her repertoire of recipes. She also loves comic books: the X-Men and Birds of Prey are among her favorite superhero teams because they both provide examples of intelligent and heroic people with disabilities fighting evil. Farfan always is willing to chat about comics.
Kaity Hagen, Young Disability Advocate
Kaity Hagen is a Communications Fellow at RespectAbility working on the Hollywood disability inclusion project. Hagen is an advocate, activist and public speaker from Minnesota. She also is profoundly Deaf. Additionally, she is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, identifying as Queer. She joined RespectAbility because she wanted to be a part of making profound changes in disability rights, equity and accessibility all across the nation. Hagen’s primary goal is to reduce the stigma and misperception that people with disabilities cannot work, obtain an education or support a family. She wants to set an example for others and, through her own actions, show what is possible. Hagen also wants to promote and encourage speaking openly about disabilities and make it more of a conversational norm, rather than something to hide and be discreet about. Previously, Hagen was an intern in the Child Protection Unit at the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office in St. Paul, Minnesota. She also worked as a Special Education Assistant at a charter school for grades 6-12 in St. Paul, Minnesota. These experiences, along with her personal experience, motivated her to become a more active role model and advocate for herself and others with disabilities. Hagen is a public speaker, speaking at schools and universities in Delaware, Maryland, California and Minnesota. Hagen is a senior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities majoring in Psychology and minoring in Leadership. She was part of the brain club, unicycle club and the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association chapter club. In 2016, Hagen completed an internship at the University of Pacific Doctoral Audiology program in San Francisco. Hagen’s favorite author is the late neurologist Oliver Sacks. Hagen has a black belt in Taekwondo and is a ski and snowboard instructor. She loves cats and dogs. For fun she likes to draw, paint, play card and board games, lift weights and go for walks. After graduation, she wants to pursue law school or a career in disability advocacy and accessibility. In five years, Hagen wants to have graduated law school and be working as a criminal prosecutor or as a disability and human rights lawyer.
Calvin Harris, CHair, RespectAbility
Harris, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, became involved in the disability space as a teenager. Because of his mother’s work in the neuromuscular lab at the Washington University School of Medicine, Harris met many kids with a disability. This experience inspired him to volunteer as a camp counselor at the Muscular Dystrophy Association Camp for Kids, where he spent several summers during high school and college. Today, Harris serves as senior manager of public affairs at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), the only Washington-based think tank that brings together leaders with different perspectives, yet stand united in their resolve to work for consensus-based solutions. He works alongside BPC’s experts to increase the visibility of regional, state and local efforts to better inform the federal decision-making process. Harris is a graduate of Morehouse College and the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.
Janet LaBreck, Disability Employment Expert
LaBreck was confirmed as the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), within the United States Department of Education in August of 2013. LaBreck was responsible for promulgating the most substantive regulation changes to the Vocational Rehabilitation program in over 15 years. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including an Honorary Doctoral Degree from New England College of Optometry (NECO) for her innovative partnership which resulted in the establishment of a mobile eye care clinic for individuals with low vision conditions and was honored in 2017 by NECO who dedicated the Janet L. LaBreck Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation clinic in her honor in recognition of her commitment and dedication to the field of blindness. Most recently, LaBreck has established Janet L. LaBreck Consulting LLC in addition to becoming a contributing partner for Synergy Consulting Partners.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President, RespectAbility
Mizrahi is a champion for America’s 56 million citizens with disabilities. She has published dozens of op-eds and publications on disability issues, including in USA Today, The Hill and other publications. She has columns in The Huffington Post, Times of Israel and The Mighty. Mizrahi is a co-author of Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success, which brought critical attention to the school-to-prison pipeline for people with disabilities and was featured on the PBS NewsHour. She is involved in the Emmy-winning TV show Born This Way and advancing diversity in Hollywood. Dyslexic herself, she also knows what it means to parent a child with multiple disabilities.
JONATHAN MURRAY, REALITY TV PIONEER AND BOARD MEMBER, RESPECTABILITY
Murray is widely credited with helping to usher in the modern reality television genre with his late partner Mary-Ellis Bunim, and he continues to inspire, influence and entertain television audiences worldwide. Since the launch of The Real World on MTV in 1992 through Bunim/Murray Productions (BMP), Murray has created and executive produced some of the industry’s most innovative, unscripted, entertainment television programs including Born This Way (A&E), which documents the lives of young adults with Down Syndrome and their families. Serving as Chairman of BMP until April 2015, Murray was responsible for guiding the creative process that has distinguished the company’s shows since the early 1990s. In 2007, the company launched BMP Films which sold its first critically acclaimed documentary, Autism: The Musical, to HBO.
Clarence Page, The Chicago Tribune
A Pulitzer Prize winner for Commentary, Page is a columnist syndicated nationally by Tribune Media Services and a member of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board. Page also is a regular contributor of essays to The News Hour with Jim Lehrer and has been a regular on NBC’s The Chris Matthews Show, ABC’s Nightline and BET’s Lead Story news panel programs. He also used to be a regular on The McLaughlin Group.
Ron Painter, National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB)
Painter assumed his role at NAWB in July of 2009. In his capacity as CEO of NAWB, Painter has traveled the country meeting with state and local workforce leaders in an effort to identify cutting-edge practices and programs and understand how best to spread innovative trends in human capital development throughout the nation-wide job training system. Painter was the founding CEO of the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board in Pittsburgh, where under his leadership the organization focused on producing labor market research, working with public educators on improved student career information, supporting community leaders in the development of regional benchmarks, and establishing the Regional Workforce Collaborative with a membership of community colleges, WIBs, employers, labor, and economic development professionals. Before joining the Three Rivers Workforce Board, he worked in Washington, D.C., first on loan to the U.S. Department of Labor for the Enterprise Project, and then for the National Alliance of Business. Painter is a Board Member of the Committee for Education Funding, Manufacturing Skills Standards’ Council, Labor Market Institute, and is a Patron of Volition Community for the Manchester Cathedral in Manchester, England. Painter holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Grove City College in Pennsylvania and a Master’s in Public Administration and advanced graduate coursework from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public & International Affairs, where he served as Adjunct Faculty.
VINCENZO PISCOPO, COMMUNITY AND STAKEHOLDER RELATIONS DIRECTOR, THE COCA-COLA COMPANY
Piscopo works as Community and Stakeholder relations director for The Coca-Cola Company where he manages the relationships with disability, veterans and Hispanic organizations as well as United Way and Hands-On Atlanta. He has worked for The Coca-Cola Company for the last 22 years in different areas of the organization: Finance, IT, Marketing and Innovation. He has a bachelor degree in Economics, an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University, a Master in Creativity from Buffalo State College and is currently working in a Master in Rehabilitation Counseling. He is the president and founder member of the This-ABILITY BRG for The Coca-Cola Company and the president and founder of the “Wheels of Happiness Foundation” where he uses his expertise to help people with motor disabilities in disadvantaged areas of the world.
Joe Shapiro, Correspondent, NPR Investigations
Shapiro is a correspondent on the NPR Investigations Unit. He takes on long-term reporting projects and covers breaking news stories for NPR’s news shows. In 2018, NPR ran his investigation, “Abused and Betrayed,” about the epidemic of sexual assault of people with intellectual disabilities. Shapiro joined NPR in 2001 and spent eight years covering health, aging, disability and children’s and family issues on the Science Desk. He is the author of the award-winning book, NO PITY: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement, which is widely read in college disability studies classes and considered the classic examination of the disability movement. Before joining NPR, Shapiro spent 19 years at U.S. News & World Report, writing on social policy and serving as the magazine’s Rome bureau chief, White House correspondent and congressional reporter.
Jennifer Sheehy, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Disability Employment Policy
Jennifer Sheehy is the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), US Department of Labor. The mission of ODEP is to develop policy that increases job opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities. Prior to her current position, Jennifer spent ten years at the US Department of Education in many roles, including acting Director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, acting Deputy Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration and Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. Jennifer came to the Department of Education from the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities where she was Senior Policy Advisor and served a detail as Associate Director in the White House Domestic Policy Council. Before she joined the task force staff, Jennifer was Vice President of the National Organization on Disability and Director of its CEO Council. Jennifer earned a BA from Cornell University and graduated with honors from Georgetown University, where she received her MBA. While in graduate school, she worked in marketing research with Anheuser-Busch Companies in St. Louis. Before graduate school, Jennifer also worked in marketing and management for Sheraton and Marriott. Jennifer has received many civic and achievement awards including the Georgetown MBA Program “Outstanding Student Leader” award; the Accenture Women in Government “Rising Leader” award, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association Hall of Fame designation; and the Diet Coke/Glamour magazine “Women at Their Best” award. Jennifer lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband.
Rep. Brad Sherman, California
Congressman Sherman, from Sherman Oaks, was born and raised in southern California and represents California’s San Fernando Valley. He has been in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997, and is currently serving his eleventh term in Congress. Congressman Sherman is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He serves as the ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Asia, and the second ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia. Sherman is a Chairman Emeritus of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade. He is also a senior member of the Financial Services Committee.
Jim Sinocchi, head of the Global office of disability inclusion, JPMorgan Chase
Sinocchi works closely with senior leaders across JPMorgan Chase to establish consistent standards and processes to better support employees with disabilities. The office also supports employees who care for disabled family members. Sinocchi is keenly aware of the issues and challenges facing people with disabilities as he sustained a spinal cord injury early in his business career. He has been active in creating awareness and understanding of disability inclusion through his blog, View from the Chair. He has served on the boards of Jawonio, an organization focused on the well-being and equality of people with disabilities, and the Human Rights Commission in Rockland County, NY. He is also a member of the Viscardi Center Board of Directors — a special education school in NY for severely disabled students.
Andrew Solomon, PH.D., award winning author
Solomon is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and psychology; winner of the National Book Award; and an activist in LGBT rights, mental health, and the arts. He is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University Medical Center, and President of PEN American Center. Solomon’s book, the best-selling Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, tells the stories of families raising exceptional children who not only learn to deal with their challenges, but also find profound meaning in doing so. Solomon earned a master’s degree in English and a Ph.D. in psychology at Jesus College, Cambridge. In 2015 he was elected president of PEN American Center. He also serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the World Monuments Fund, Yaddo, and the Alex Fund.
Donna Walton, The Divas With Disabilities Project
Dr. Donna R. Walton is the Founder and President of Divas with Disabilities Inc. A native of the nation’s capital, Walton is an educator and motivator who believes in living not just surviving. She grew up dreaming of becoming a great performer. Facing crowds fed her soul, but fate had other plans. Losing her leg in 1976 to osteogenic sarcoma, a potentially fatal form of bone cancer, Walton became motivated to fight for the respect and dignity she believes all people deserve, especially African American women with disabilities. Walton’s pre-amputation aspirations to perform have not been lost only changed. Now Walton uses the stage to dispel the myths and misconceptions about people with disabilities. As a public speaker, Walton reaches and moves her audiences using her unique journey as evidence of how to live life in the face of adversity with passion and courage. Walton’s ability to captivate and motivate audiences through her trademark blend of humor, storytelling, and education has earned her numerous speaking engagements including the African-American Women on Tour Conference, The United States Conference on AIDS, The United States Army, Equal Opportunity Office, and the J.W. Marriott Hotel Annual Associates Program. Her impressive oratory skills have earned her awards as a member of the Capital Speakers of Toastmasters International. Walton, a strong advocate of the disability community and a published writer, reaches a broad audience with her tremendous literary skills. One of her most powerful pieces is a multi-published personal essay titled, “What’s a Leg Got to Do With It?” Says Walton, “to arrive where I am, I had to break down all the meanings my life had for me as a two-legged person and reconstruct a life for myself as an amputee- one that is empowered with courage and determination.” Shattered Dreams, Broken Pieces is her first book. In 1996, Walton created her small business, LEGGTalk, Inc. (formerly named Dream Reach Win), to help individuals translate their personal visions into action and sustained change. In 2012, she founded the Divas With Disabilities Project, a digital campaign aimed to support women of color with disabilities. The bulk of Walton’s work highlights diversity and disability awareness. Walton is perhaps best known for her facilitation of Empowerment Salons for young girls and women of color. Drawing from her background in counseling and education, she conducts Empowerment Salons and workshops to teach women how to embrace their inner strength, to gain self-confidence and self-control over life’s challenges. Walton received her Bachelors in Elementary Education at American University followed by her Masters in Adult Education from Syracuse University. She ultimately earned her Doctoral degree from George Washington University in 2005.
Donn Weinberg, Chair EMERITUS, RESPECTABILITY
Weinberg is one of the five trustees of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and is its Executive Vice President and In-House Counsel. Employed by the Foundation since 1993, he became one of its trustees in 2002. He also served a three-year term as its Chairman (a rotating position) from 2010-2013. Weinberg focus primarily on the Foundation’s grant contracts, its non-Hawaiian real estate portfolio, and is liaison to the Foundation’s Hawaii office. He earned his law degree in 1978 from The University of Baltimore School of Law and served as Editor-in-Chief of the school’s Law Review. In law practice from 1978 through 1992, he specialized in general civil and medical malpractice litigation.
Judy Woodruff, Anchor and managing Editor, PBS NewsHour
Woodruff has covered politics and other news for more than four decades at CNN, NBC and PBS. For 12 years, Woodruff served as anchor and senior correspondent for CNN, where her duties included anchoring the weekday program, “Inside Politics.” At PBS from 1983 to 1993, she was the chief Washington correspondent for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. From 1984-1990, she also anchored PBS’ award-winning weekly documentary series, “Frontline with Judy Woodruff.”