Laura Hershey: Writer, Poet, Activist, Consultant Rotating Header Image

Presidential Appointment Puzzle

Like most disability advocates and arts advocates, I’m not sure what to make of President Obama’s decision to appoint Chicago attorney Kareem Dale to two key positions. After the election, Dale was named to be the President’s special assistant for disability policy. Now, according to news reports, Dale has been chosen to head a White House initiative on arts and culture. No one seems to be sure whether he will be expected to carry both responsibilities, or whether someone else will be given the disability portfolio.

Should we be worried about Dale’s double duty? Does this mean that both arts and disability will get only .5 FTE worth of attention? Are the disability community and the arts community — both big supporters of Barack Obama during the campaign — getting short shrift?

Perhaps. But could there be another, more hopeful, possibility? Maybe this signals a new, high-level recognition of disability arts and culture. Maybe the dual appointment represents a view of these two issues as not only important, but somehow linked.

What might come from a White House-led boost for both disability rights and art? Here are a few possibilities —

  • A nationally-televised literary festival at the Lincoln Center featuring poets and writers like Petra Kuppers, Neil Marcus, Leroy Moore, Anne Finger, Eli Clare, Stephen Kuusisto, and others.
  • A major exhibit of the art of Riva Lehrer at the National Portrait Gallery.
  • Generous National Endowment for the Arts funding for performance groups such as AXIS Dance Company, Sins Invalid, and The GIMP Project.
  • We can hope, right?


    1. cripchick says:

      that really IS thinking positively.
      how beautiful that would be though..

    2. Janine Bertram Kemp says:

      You ARE putting a positive spin on this…or finding the pony in the horse@#$%. Can positive thinking create reality? The President does trust Kareem. Also Kareem can work with dispatch and sensitivity. Still, a history of disability being viewed as tertiary to mainstream political agendas leaves me pessimistic.

    3. Maxine says:

      Your vision is a hopeful and worthwhile one. I’m really enjoying working my way through your site. Thankyou.

    4. sandra742 says:

      Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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