AOTA Leaders and AOTPAC Contest Winner Witness Historic Inauguration
“Ecstatic” describes Susan Harris’s response when notified that she was the winner of the American Occupational Therapy Political Action Committee (AOTPAC) contest to attend the presidential inauguration and related activities in Washington, DC, on January 20. Her participation in this historic event made for an exciting and productive advocacy experience for this dedicated AOTA member.
Harris, who lives in California, was selected among AOTPAC contributors of $1,000 or more. Jody Werner of Kansas won the contest of contributors of $365 or more and participated in the Congressional swearing-in activities in Washington. on January 6. (See article: AOTPAC Contest Winners Participate in Historic Inauguration and Congressional Swearing-In)
Along with hundreds of thousands of other people descending on Washington, Harris and her husband Mike arrived at Baltimore Washington International Airport to participate in the inaugural activities of our 44th president. They joined AOTPAC Chairperson Amy Lamb and her husband Nate, AOTA President Penny Moyers-Cleveland and her husband Frank, and AOTA staff members Christina Metzler, Tim Nanof, and Ralph Kohl for activities from Saturday, January 17, through Tuesday, January 20. Check out their blogs on OT Connections and a photo gallery on OT Connections (www.otconnections.org),
From breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to cocktail receptions and a ball, they traveled around D.C. advocating for occupational therapy with members of Congress, their staff, and other health care organization members and staff. On the cold day of the inauguration they started by traveling to their first destination—a viewing party overlooking the Capitol. The experience of getting to the event among a the million-plus others making their way to the Mall was certainly a challenge. Shoulder to shoulder, they finally arrived with the help of a kindly police escort and were glad to eventually warm up.
Needless to say, the excitement was palpable and the energy was high enough to light up all of Washington—talk about green power! The attendees had a bird’s-eye view of the inauguration from the rooftop and also watched it on wide-screen televisions . And yes, security was very tight! Hearing President Obama address the nation, watching the ceremonies, seeing former President Bush and Mrs. Bush depart in a helicopter, and witnessing the presidential motorcade were very emotional moments for all. As Harris said, “The combination of being in such close proximity to the Capitol steps yet having a panoramic view; having other health care professionals to talk to and learn from, in addition to the now comfortable AOTA professionals with me; and the culminating act of listening to our new president articulate the values that must guide us and the principles we hold dear—all contributed to tears running down my cheeks and a feeling of confidence in what we can achieve as a nation, as health care professionals, and as occupational therapists. I could tell by everyone’s faces that my companion celebrants felt the same—and I know we are ready to lead change, wherever it needs to occur.”
There was no rest for the weary—the group headed back to their hotel to begin preparations for the ball that night. They attended the Michigan Inaugural Ball held at the National Museum of American History, with festivities on all four floors. They met Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who had a few days earlier signed occupational therapy licensure into law. President Moyers-Cleveland presented her with a thank you letter. They met members of Congress from Michigan, and other dignitaries. They were able to talk with many people and still enjoy a wonderful evening—the culmination of an exciting and energizing day.
AOTA was recognized at several of the events, providing lots of visibility and public relations opportunities.
“I will never forget my experiences during this historical event for our country. Thank you AOTA members and all who donate to AOTPAC and our Legislative Defense Fund for making it possible for us to represent occupational therapy at a time when health care reform is high on our nation's agenda,” says President Moyers-Cleveland.
Opportunities abound for occupational therapy with the new Congress and Administration. Health care reform may be on the horizon and occupational threapy is ready for its place at the table for discussions on this and other important policy topics. What an exciting time for the United States, occupational therapy, and AOTA.
Although AOTPAC does not endorse a presidential candidate, AOTA leaders have participated in the last four inaugurations, representing occupational therapy in a bipartisan manner.