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From 9/11 to Today

It’s been 18 years since 9/11. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was shocked, saddened, scared. There were the heroes who went up the towers to save lives and who died. There were thousands of other heroes helping in thousands of other ways and places. The way that America pulled together, and the way that our allies stood with us, it was amazing.

Before 9/11, I was very partisan. Indeed, I was an official spokesperson of a national political party and was on TV regularly for “spin”. One of the people I was “up against” on TV was Republican/conservative spokesperson Barbara Olson. Olson was one of the thousands who were murdered on 9/11. I disagreed with her on many things — but she was never disagreeable. She was a human being just like all the other victims.

Because of 9/11, I decided to become “post partisan.” Since then I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to work on issues with leaders and activists from all political persuasions. But now – as you know — our country is really pulled apart. It’s like we lost the glue that kept us together.

We need to pull our communities back together. And there should never be a “need” for a terror attack to make that happen. We need to make it happen.

It starts with us.

The good news that we can do it. We can – especially in issues that impact everyone such as disability issues — find common ground. We can use “our” issues in some sectors to end the bitterness and scapegoating across a multitude of issues.

Here is an example. On 9/11, I was in NYC. I went to join with Ila Eckhoff from our board of directors who is also a leader with the Ability Network at Blackrock (a very large financial company where Ila is a managing director). They are helping advance acceptance, equity and opportunity for people with disabilities. Indeed, corporations are starting to do more and more that shows a conscience. Though disability employment also happens to be very good for business.

As it happens, Ila both has Cerebral Palsy and over 30 years of financial services experience. She is both a rock star in her day job a senior member of Blackrock’s Global Investment Operations team, and also as a disability advocate. Active also in the Jewish community, she graduated from Brandeis University with a BA in Economics and has an MBA and CPA in accounting from Baruch College. She sits on the Board of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation in addition to RespectAbility.

It’s people like Ila who can change the world one big ripple at a time. Indeed, because of Ila and others the Ability Network at Blackrock got to hear Rick Guidotti. Rick is another incredible changemaker who also a member of our board. He leads the amazing Positive Exposure. Positive Exposure is a NY based nonprofit that is literally changing the face of disability. This includes a great new building that they will open very soon, called Positive Exposure 109. You are invited to check it out!

Positive Exposure 109 is an ADA compliant gallery, lecture hall, performing arts center, visual arts studio and community space devoted to celebrating human diversity through arts and culture. Set on NYC’s Museum Mile at 109th Street, Positive Exposure 109 will serve as central hub for showcasing the work of visual, performing and literary artists as well as providing educational and cultural programming. This multi-purposed community space will be the first of its kind, with a mission to break down barriers and broaden society’s perspective on diversity and inclusion for schools, teachers, families, community groups and help care professionals in New York City and the world around.

The grand opening for 109 is October 3-5. RSVP here!

We never want to have another 9/11. But people like Ila and Rick – and their great work – can help us rebuild the decency and sense of community that is so lacking today.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Meet the Author

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the Founder of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. She regularly works with disability organizations, national, state and local policy leaders, workforce development professionals, media, employers, philanthropists, celebrities and faith-based organizations in order to expand opportunities for people with disabilities.

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