That's what the Illinois state representative told me when I pleaded to be included on the crowded speaker's list for the Illinois General Assembly House committee hearing on the abuse and neglect of people with disabilities.
180 seconds to tell the story of 22 years of neglect, abuse, and rights violations.
But it's more time than anybody ever gave Will to tell it.
I've written a lot about my late friend Will's struggle to live with some basic human rights. Here is a website I set up to tell some of his story:
So I spent hours writing and re-writing my testimony. My partner in this endeavor warned me it was too emotional. "Speak like you are giving an academic treatise!", this dialectical materialist advised. Exactly wrong, others said, urging me to make it as pathos filled as possible, warning that only the most wrenching tales would be remembered.
But how do you distill an epic struggle, one that involved the most emblematic of themes - exploitation for profit versus a courageous fight for self-determination, segregation versus inclusion, even life and death - into three bloody minutes? Of course, I'm being allowed to submit written documentation, but I know how the game works. Only the most compelling tales will lure busy aides and reps to read the documentation.
So I'm still revising, tearing up, and re-doing. It's one battle in a very long war for justice. My son and I managed to get the tale told in a brief Youtube clip, which I wish I could show the committee (it's longer than three minutes, but the Bruce Springsteen music makes it go pretty quickly)
If all of your struggles and all the injustice you suffered at the hands of others had to be summed up by another in less time than it takes to wait at a longish stoplight, what would you want emphasized? It's a fearsome task. I'm pretty sure I'm not worthy to do it. I'm afraid to try; I'm afraid not to. I'm afraid to fail. Epic fear, soul shattering frustration, searing pain, and the most wrenching grief I've ever felt - those have all been part of my life since I met, loved, and lost Will. But how often do you get to have an avatar of courage in your life? Bob Marley said:
“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”I found one.