Senator Ed Reilly (R-33) was the keynote speaker at the first annual Autumn Auction to benefit Autism FYI.
The following are his remarks from the evening, in which he also received an award and make a donation to Autism FYI.
DR BENJAMIN, Thank you for asking me to speak tonight.
It is indeed an honor and a privilege to speak from the heart about something that is so much a part of your soul.
Your dedication for not only your family, but to others throughout your career has been an inspiration to us all. As a football player from Penn State who went on to graduate from Howard University School of Medicine, to then serve your country and eventually become a successful surgeon in private practice, you are the ideal of the Greek scholar athlete in which a true renaissance man is required to make progress in how our society deals with those on the Autism Spectrum.
For me, in is not an issue of science or technology, but one of compassion and understanding.
Too many times there are tragic incidents when those on the spectrum are not recognized as such by those in authority. What is truly tragic about his is that so many times those in authority like police officers would be the first to help those on the spectrum if only they recognized the conditions and were trained how to react appropriately.
It is not that police officers and others lack compassion and understanding.
They do not lack these characteristics. I have met and come to know many, many dedicated public servants who wear the badge to protect and serve. But they are limited by their training and their understanding. This is where those of us in office and in the audience tonight must do all that we can so not just police officers, but other first responders first recognize those on the spectrum, and are trained how to react accordingly in demeanor, tone, positioning, and most important of all, compassion.
As Jim Bucahnan, the former police chief for Redlands, California and now the President of the Police Foundation, remarked about his, “Yelling commands at someone who’s agitated and maybe delusional is not going to help.”
This does not end with those in public service, however.
The private sector needs to be trained better to maximize the potential of those on the spectrum. Creative genius is often times not recognized. We are all familiar with the story of how Thomas Edison ended up being home schooled. According to the Foundation for Economic Education, he was “belittled” by the head of the school for being unable to think clearly.
Like any mother, his mom understandably, and naturally, took offense.
She met with those in charge at the school; and did not find the compassion and understanding required for her son’s special gifts to be inspired. She withdrew him immediately from the school. Edison was then home-schooled for virtually all of his education.
His mother recognized that genius needs to be nurtured.
Many times it is difficult for those in authority to appreciate that immutable fact of learning, and for how it then becomes the forces of progress for a community. What the case of Thomas Edison clearly demonstrates is that there is no government program or private sector incentive plan that can replace or match the love of a mother or the support of a family, to be sure.
But there can be more of an emphasis on reaching out to those on the spectrum to optimize the conditions in which they work and socialize so that all benefit as much as possible. This is a challenge. But it is one well worth taking, to be sure.
When you look back at government initiatives to unlock the potential of segments of the American populace that had been held back, the results are well worth the effort with rewards for the community and the country.
We saw this with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Civil Rights Act furthered both the integration of schools and of voting rights for minorities. As an article in Bloomberg Businessweek by Professor Gavin Right of Stanford University , The Stunning Economic Impact of the Civil Rights Movement,” stated about this, “Long-term studies by economists Sarah Reber, Orley Ashenfelter, William Collins, Albert Yoon and Rucker Johnson have found that Southern school integration increased blacks’ graduation rates, test scores, earnings and adult health status, while reducing the probability of incarceration.”
From more voting after the Civil Rights Act, there was, “Political representation translated into real economic gains for black Southerners, indicated by the distribution of public services, access to public-sector employment and racial equity in the allocation of government contracts.
It was much the same for women with the enactment of Title 9 in 1972.
Title 9 is most often associated with equality for females in college sports. While there have been remarkable achievements by females in athletics, Title 9 opened up so much more in so many ways for women. Before 1972, the income of a woman was not considered stable enough to be counted when applying for a mortgage.
Dr Janet Yellin is Chairman of the Federal Reserve Baord, arguably the most powerful person in finance.
Not far behind is Ellen Costello, the President and CEO of Harris Bank, the 12th largest in America by assets. Its tough to imagine either one of them not qualifying for a mortgage. About half of business and law school classes are now female.
This is also true for medical school, many PHD programs, and other professional schools. Women make up about of the classes in these graduate programs now. For sports, many females are athletic directors at the biggest universities, including Penn State and NC State, among others. We were blessed by these gains from Title IX with Debbie Yow who was the athletic director at Maryland when the Terps won the men’s NCAA basketball championship in 2002.
Now, as a Republican, I am not a fan of big government programs.
But as a public servant and a man of principle, I am a big fan of government progress in areas where it is needed. And progress is clearly needed now in all dealings with those on the spectrum. This does not require additional spending or new taxes. What is needed is a redirected focus in some areas of training, which must be constantly updated.
Firemen, the police, and others are, by and large, dedicated public servants who do their job well.
But, like all of us, they can do better. A major area for this is interacting with those who have unique abilities and circumstances. We are a community. That is our strength as a country. For that to remain so, we must ensure that those who are different are not treated as a weakness or a liability, but rather as a robust asset to be nurtured.
Thank You and May God Bless the Efforts of this Organization!