Monday, March 23, 2009

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Advocate for Special Needs

With President Barack Obama's "Special Olympics" joke being one of the most talked about stories this week, it's easy to overlook the many politicians in Washington D.C. who are making a positive impact on people with disabilities and special needs. One of those politicians is Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. McMorris Rodgers, who serves Washington's 5th Congressional District, is the most senior ranking Republican woman in Congress and serves as Vice-Chair of the House Republican Conference. In 2007, she and her husband Brian Rodgers gave birth to a son, Cole. Cole was born with Down Syndrome.

McMorris Rodgers has said that finding out her son would be born with Down Syndrome "was a shock at first" but she was overwhelmed by how many people reached out to share their own stories with her, when she announce the news. In a recent interview, the Congresswoman said,

As word spread, I was overwhelmed with letters and email from people all over the country wanting to share their story with me. They wanted me to know I wasn't alone and that my baby was going to have a very positive and unique impact on my life. I received hundreds, perhaps over a thousand of those stories. To this day, I have (all the stories) kept in a binder, and they are a special source of encouragement.

Inspiration from these families and her own experience set McMorris Rodgers into action. Last year, along with a bi-partisan group of members of Congress, McMorris Rodgers created the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus to help other families who are dealing with the condition. In a press release, the Congresswoman said she wanted her own son to have every opportunity to reach his full potential and believed the Caucus would help other families do just that.

Some of the goals of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus include promoting and funding research, promoting inclusiveness for people with Down Syndrome, advocating for their rights, and raising expectations to improve education. Recently, McMorris Rodgers spoke at the Down Syndrome AIA Conference in Washington DC where she encourage families with members who have Down Syndrome to contact their representatives and share their personal stories and needs. You can learn more about Congresswoman's crusade at her personal website: Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers : Down Syndrome or by watching this video featuring McMorris Rodgers and her adorable son, Cole!

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