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Pelosi Remarks at VSA Reception Celebrating the Arts and Disability

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Pelosi delivered remarks today in the Cannon House Office Building at a reception celebrating the arts and disability hosted by the Kennedy Center and VSA, the international organization on arts and disability. Below are the Speaker's remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you to all of the artists and performers whose work is on display today and all week long in our nation's capital.
“More than 35 years ago, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith founded VSA with a single purpose in mind: to empower all people with disabilities to learn, grow, and reach their full potential through the arts.

“She believed in the power of art to inspire; to tell a story about our past and paint a portrait of our future; to connect individuals and communities of different backgrounds and cultures.  She understood that art stems from the passion, ideas, and imagination of those who create it.

“As Ambassador Smith said in opening the VSA Festival on Sunday: ‘Art is not a luxury.  Art is central to what makes us fully human.  Art allows us to communicate our feelings and fears, our desires and dreams, with other people…and generations.'

“In her work, Jean Kennedy Smith upholds the commitment of the Kennedy family to the arts and people with disabilities.  Today, that cause moves forward through our colleague, her nephew Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island.

“Since its founding, this spirit has driven VSA to give young men and women with disabilities the chance to study dance, music, theater, film, and visual arts. It has led VSA to ensure that students with disabilities can participate in art classes, develop their skills, and cultivate their talents

“And it's pushed VSA to make clear to institutions, schools, and leaders - here and around the world - that every cultural landmark and activity must remain open to those with or without disabilities.

“Twenty years ago, this same spirit inspired Congress to pass one of the most significant civil rights laws of the last half century: the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Led by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the ADA reaffirmed a fundamental ideal: that we are all created equal.  We must always respect people for what they can do, not judge them for what they cannot do.

“As a member of the Kennedy Center Board, I am proud that an institution that bears the Kennedy name is working to realize the vision of the ADA.

“Tomorrow, in that same spirit, our Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on a measure to ensure that our laws keep pace with new technologies and enable people with disabilities to participate in the economic, social, and cultural opportunities the Internet and new communication technologies provide.
“This week's VSA Festival brings together some of the great driving forces of America's success and progress: equality, creativity, and opportunity for all.  In showcasing the work of artists with disabilities, we honor their contributions to our culture and society.

“In celebrating their artistic achievement, we embrace the central place the arts hold in our history, and the role they will play for generations to come.  And we echo the message that art truly ‘makes us fully human.'”