of Our Own
by Calvin and Tricia Luker, Our Children Left Behind,
July 15, 2004
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On Tuesday we
had the pleasure of attending an awards benefit in Morgantown,
West Virginia. The banquet, the 2004 Governor’s Service Award
Banquet, was hosted by West Virginia Governor, Bob Wise. We
attended the banquet because Our Children Left Behind’s own Debi
Lewis was honored with an award. We are so proud of her.
It is not uncommon for us to be asked why we do what we do in
working to provide better, more equitable educational
opportunities for our children. Debi’s acceptance speech answers
that question as well as anything we have ever heard or written.
We share her speech with you below.
2004 Governor’s Service Awards: Acceptance Speech
From the introduction, you know what I do. So I’m going to tell
you why I do it.
First, of course, there’s my son, Tucker. Had he not been
injured at birth, I might still be totally ignorant of the
issues facing people with disabilities. He has inspired me to be
far more than I ever aspired to be. I do it for Tucker.
And then, there are my other children. Just as people with
disabilities deserve the opportunity to lead self-determined
lives, so do their families. Siblings should have the freedom to
pursue their own dreams and not feel obligated to pinch hit for
dysfunctional service systems. So, I do it for Duncan and for
Next, there is my husband. Just as I do, he wants to be able to
retire someday, secure in the knowledge that we have paved the
way for our children to each live full and fulfilling lives. I
do it for Jason ... and for myself.
I do it for my grandmother, Anna, a veteran’s widow who
single-handedly raised four children on factory wages. Anna
currently has no alternative but to spend the sunset of her life
in a Wheeling nursing home.
I do it for my incredibly beautiful friend, Logan, who now
proudly owns his own home in Charleston – not because of the
lessons taught by our schools, but in spite of them.
I do it for my friend, Jessica, who I never had the pleasure of
meeting during her time on earth, but whose brilliant smile
still lights my heart.
I do it for my friend, Julie, who is now “allowed” to attend
classes with her peers.
I do it for my friend, Anne, who has taught me so much about
true friendship and unwavering integrity. Thank you, Anne.
I do it for my friend, Tricia, who continually amazes me with
her energy and dedication.
I do it for my friend, Calvin, who sets the standard for
I do it for my friend, Benji, whose exuberance is contagious,
and for Benji’s siblings, Daniel and Hannah, who are every bit
I do it for my friend, Nicholas, who is as charming and talented
as his mother, Shari.
I do it for my friend, Sandy, whose natural nice-ness puts us
all to shame.
I do it for my friend, Jackie, who still feels the indelible
pain of her son Joshua’s institutionalization as a young child.
(Joshua, incidentally, now owns his own home and his own
business and controls his own supports.)
I do it for my friends, Ken and Vicki, who do it for everyone,
everywhere, every single day.
I do it for those who are afraid to do it themselves, for those
who don’t know how, and for those who do not have the necessary
time or energy.
And finally, I do it for each and every one of you – because you
may someday acquire a disability. When you do – and the only way
to avoid it is death – I hope my work, and the work of my
wonderful friends, enables you to have all the supports that you
need to live where you choose, with whom you choose, and to
receive care from the people you choose.
Debi Lewis, July 13, 2004
We all have our own reasons justifying our volunteer activities.
Congratulations to Debi for the recognition her efforts have
received. She surely deserves the honors. The beauty of Debi as
a person and of her speech is that it convinces us beyond all
doubt that she would do it and will continue to do it regardless
of any recognition she might receive for having done it. That is
but a small measure of who she is and why we are so honored to
be among her friends.
Tricia & Calvin Luker, today's
©2004 Our Children Left Behind.
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