Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today recognizing the achievements of former Senator Bob Dole and advocating ratification of the Disabilities Convention. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
On April 14, 1945, a young Robert Dole lay gravely wounded in the mud of a war-torn Italian hillside, after shrapnel tore through his shoulder and spine.
Twenty-four years later, after years spent rebuilding his body and building a political career, the future Senate Majority Leader gave his maiden speech on the Senate floor.
Senator Bob Dole’s first floor speech was about the challenges faced each day – even in this, the richest of nations – by people just like him – people with disabilities.
He described the discrimination Americans with disabilities faced as, “Maybe not exclusion from the front of the bus, but perhaps from even climbing aboard it.”
And for the next 27 years of his Senate career – including 11 years as Majority Leader – and throughout his years in the private sector, Bob Dole would remain a vocal advocate for Americans with disabilities.
Since Senator Dole fought for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, barriers have lifted, helping people with disabilities in this country live the full and productive lives they want and deserve.
There is no finer example of the extraordinary things ordinary Americans can achieve in spite of their disabilities than Bob Dole’s inspiring career.
The United States has been a leader in expanding disability rights across the globe. And U.S. law has been the gold standard for the rest of world.
But the United States must continue to lead by example. And we must do more to protect American citizens traveling, working and serving abroad.
The Disabilities Convention before the Senate today, a treaty already ratified by 125 nations, would advance those goals.
This convention would give us an opportunity to strengthen our leadership on disability rights around the world.
And it is another step towards ensuring all people with a disability – in any country – are treated with dignity and given the right to achieve their full potential.
Ratification of this treaty won’t cost taxpayers a dime.
It won’t require any changes to existing U.S. law.
It has the support of veterans groups and disability groups from around the country.
It has the strong backing of a bipartisan group of Senators and leading Republicans such as President George H.W. Bush, as well as Senator Dole.
And like passing the Americans with Disabilities Act, ratifying the treaty is the right thing to do.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “If you would lift me up you must be on higher ground.”
If the United States wishes to be a global example of the huge strides people with disabilities can make when barriers to success are removed, we must take the high ground.
I thank Senators Kerry, McCain, Durbin, Lugar, Barrasso, Coons, Tom Udall and Harkin for leading the way on this issue. With their help, I hope we will quickly ratify this treaty.