Chapter 4: The Need for Ongoing Advocacy
05:03:37:09 - 05:06:12:22
Lisa: Given all your efforts to ensure that children have the right, the opportunity to be educated, um in schools that people have the opportunity to live in community and communities of their choosing. Um, how is it to see that the current fiscal cutbacks are putting people in position of being returned to institutional care?
Jim: It's devastating. Uh, to see this and, uh, now I am not in the front scenes, uh, as I was, uh, but to watch this and, uh, it's, it's, it's devastating. I think that, uh, one of our major issues over many years, uh, has been awareness and, uh, we have, uh, recently at the national level, uh, The Arc has, uh, initiated a, what they call a rebranding campaign. In other words to get out with, uh, the message of, uh, our people and the needs of our people and, uh, that was launched, uh, just a few months ago. We have, uh, uh, over, uh, 700 chapters, uh, across the country. Uh, very few, we are one of the largest, uh, uh, organizations, charity federations in the country. We, uh, are probably right behind the, uh, uh, The United Fund in terms of overall dollars raised but very few people know about The Arc, know about what we are doing, know about our people and, uh, so The Arc is now, uh, established again as I said, a rebranding, a branding campaign to get the word out. We ran a special section in Time magazine back in September which reached over, uh, 19 million people across the country. We're going to do another one next October. So creating that awareness, uh, and building on that awareness is so very important, uh, to, uh, building a ground swell against these cuts, getting folks out there to write letters, to call their congressman, congresswomen and so forth. So, it is devastating. There is no doubt about it but I think the fact that we are out there working on our image, activating our, uh, lobbying groups down in Washington. I think we're going to, hopefully, uh, cut back on those cut backs that are planned.
05:06:12:22 - 05:07:22:28
Lisa: Um, do you think siblings will or should play a larger role in the advocacy efforts that you are describing?
Jim: I think siblings, uh, are playing a much larger role. Uh, I know now of siblings, uh, that I didn't know then, uh, who are involved. There are several staff members, uh, at The Arc, uh, in, uh, Washington DC who are siblings and, uh, I think siblings have a very special perspective of course as a sibling and, uh, we're not parents, that's for sure but we have a different perspective and also a different emotional attachment too and, uh, on one hand I think we can be quite independent emotional but on the other hand we do have that attachment and, uh, there are programs of course now at, uh, the state and, and, uh, national level and the local level for siblings, programs to help siblings. Those programs as I have said before did not exist, unfortunately I would have benefited greatly by it, uh when I was a youngster and a sibling.
05:07:22:28 - 05:10:22:21
Lisa: Lowell wasn't in the right age to benefit from, um, the opening of schools. Your first real, um achievement as an advocate, um, but he certainly could benefit from all of your efforts on behave of insuring the people with disabilities enjoy life in the community and I wonder if you could tell us a little about, um, his adult years and his life and community.
Jim: He had a fabulous life. Uh, he, uh, as I think I have mentioned before. He lived at then, at The Walker Center which is in Overbrook and, uh, fabulous place. He had gone to school there and, uh, he loved it, uh. There were probably about 20, 25 folks there, peers of his. He was very much involved, uh, in the community. He went to, on weekends he went up to, uh, the Nippon Association up in North Philadelphia for recreation activities, um, every weekend. Uh, he worked at The Philadelphia Arc, the workshop there. Uh, he made money. He was so proud of it. Uh, I can't tell you how proud he was of the money he made at the, uh, workshop, uh. As I have said before, we were very close knit and, uh, also, uh, I was, uh, so fortunate to, uh, find a beautiful girl, my wife Eve- Ann. 45 plus years now of marriage and, uh, she, uh, uh, she got into this project, uh, just, uh, full time, uh. She, uh, became a special education teacher in New York. She worked in Harlem, teaching these kids and, uh, and then when our two girls were born, uh, Susanne and Diantha, lovely young ladies. They're in their thirties now and beautiful young adults. Uh, they were very involved too and, uh, we moved from being, uh, originally of course it was a four family group with my father and my mother and Lowell and myself and then it became a three family group with my mother and, uh, Lowell and myself and, uh, then it became a much larger group with Lowell and Eve- Ann and her two daughters and, uh, my mother. She lived on for a number of years and, uh, we continued that closeness and, uh, we had the best of times, uh, with Lowell and with everyone.
Lisa: Jim, when you look back on all of your advocacy efforts. What were some of the hardest times as you recall?
Jim: I think the hardest times, uh, were those years, uh, after my father died and, uh, the, uh, desperation that, uh, I, I could see, um, in my own family. The difficulties I began to realize that we were facing and the struggles, the challenges and also then into the larger community. The struggles, the challenges, uh, but at the same time there were, uh, moments of great triumph, uh, in my own family, uh, there was, uh, triumph, uh, happiness. Great happiness and, uh, we all had a great time together, uh, notwithstanding the challenges as I have said before. My mother made it very clear that, uh, I was as much as of a challenge to her when she became a single parent as, as Lowell was. In fact she would often say that I was more of a challenge to raise than, uh, than my brother. So she kind of kept me in my place. I could never get to a feat and carried away with myself, uh, but they were the happiest times in our family and, uh, and then on the larger level as I have said, I got very much caught up in the Civil Rights , uh, movement in the sense that we've got to begin to pick up for our people. Our people were neglected and, uh, left out and, uh, we had to fight for these people and, uh, and, uh, getting together with people like Tom and Dennis and Pat Clapp and Eleanor and fighters. Uh, we, we were just right there and, uh, we were going to make it happen and , uh,I think that the characteristic that, that infuses all was a certainly passion. We all had passion, certainly energy. We were all relatively young and full of energy and, uh, we could move about and, uh, we forgot to sleep in those days. Sleep was just something that we had to put up with as I recall, uh, but most important we had vision. After a period of time we gained vision. We realized that, uh, that we could see beyond that horizon, uh, in the distance. We could see beyond Pennhurst. We realized that we, the short term goal was to close Pennhurst but we wanted to get beyond that. We wanted to get beyond the residential context as Tom had suggested at the time and go much further and, uh, again as I have said, we were influenced by, uh, the class action litigation suits of, uh, the African Americans, particularly that paradigm changing 1954, uh, decision of the Supreme Court, uh, on Brown and, um, I think those are the, those are the experiences in the moments, the moments of desperation, uh, but they were far overshadowed, uh with moments of triumph and happiness that we were able to do what we did and we were part of this huge movement that, uh, that made it possible for these folks to have civil rights.
More Interview Chapters
- Family and Early Career
- The ARC of Pennsylvania and Early Advocacy
- The Right to Education and PARC Consent Decree
- YOU ARE HERE: The Need for Ongoing Advocacy
About Jim Wilson
Born: 1934, Philadelphia, PA
Publishing Executive. President, Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) 1968-71. President, National Association for Retarded Children (NARC) 1977-79.
PARC, Civil Rights Movement, Tom Gilhool, Dennis Haggerty, Right to Education, Siblings, ARC