Sunday, August 30, 2009
A Major Victory, but the War Continues
With Congress in recess throughout August not much has happened in regards to advocating for myself and the other victim's of Chrysler and GM. The only real effort that I was involved in this month was writing letters to each of the members of Chrysler's Board of Directors. Mom and Dad, and several other victims of Chrysler vehicles, wrote letters as well. The goal of the letters was to get the Board of Directors to realize the safety risks created by not accepting responsibility for pending claims and the safety of their 31 million pre-bankruptcy vehicles that are currently on the road.
Now, imagine my surprise to learn that Chrysler has finally accepted responsibility for future claims caused by defective pre-bankruptcy vehicles! This is a major victory, but the war continues. Unfortunately they are still refusing to address pending claims. The safety of 31 million vehicle owners has been restored. That is one of the goals that we set out to achieve. Whether our efforts had anything to do with Chrysler's change of heart or not, I am extremely proud to feel like a part of it. I do know that this would not have happened without the support of Senators and Congressmen. Which shows me that our voices can make a difference and motivates me to continue fighting. The war will not be over until the people who have been injured, the people who have been fighting this fight, get to argue our cases against Chrysler and GM in court.
My hope is that this turn of events will make it easier to legislation through congress to support the victims of both Chrysler and GM. Now that Chrysler has accepted future claims the number of people who have been injured by these companies, and abused by the federal bankruptcy process, is a solid number. Ron Bloom, from the President's Auto Task Force has previously stated that they won't write endless checks to the people who have been injured by these companies. Well, now we're only talking about approximately 1300 people, and that number could be reduced by allowing these cases to be heard in court.
I'm not sure what happens at this point. Now the game board has changed dramatically. However, the issue is much clearer. Those of us who have been injured, or lost family members, as a result of defective Chrysler or GM vehicles have also lost our right to hold these companies accountable through the bankruptcy process that was funded with our tax dollars! Our Congress must pass legislation that allows our cases to be heard in court and provides appropriate financial recovery for our losses. Currently the only proposed legislation is H.R. 3088, The Jeremy Warriner Consumer Protection Act (it still feels weird to say that!). The Bill may need to be changed to adjust for the new situation. A companion bill, or some other legislation still needs to be introduced in the Senate. More importantly, we must gain as many co-sponsors as possible for the legislation. (H.R. 3088 only has four co-sponsors.) We need to get as many people as possible to talk to their Congressmen and Senators offices about this issue.
As I learn more details about what is happening in Washington I will let you know how you can help. Right now the most important thing is to talk about it with family, friends, and co-workers. Build support, find out who is concerned about it, and ask them to speak up when we know what's happening with the legislation.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Taking a break
On August 7th I gave the keynote speech at the Easter Seals Crossroads Assistive Technology Conference. There were about 500 people in attendance and the conference was fantastic! I hadn't spoken about anything other than the Chrysler/GM bankruptcy debacle for some time and I have to admit that it was refreshing to change focus for a while. Before my speech I was awarded the Assistive Technology "Inspiration" Award. The original plan for the keynote was to have an interview style presentation between myself and Wade Wingler (the Director of Assistive Technology at Easter Seals Crossroads), but at the last minute I decided to wing it on my own.
For some reason, even though I've had plenty of experience with public speaking, I was a bit intimidated when I was first asked to do this speech. Perhaps it was because I would need to stick to about 20 minutes, instead of rambling on about myself for an hour. Perhaps it was because it would be the first time that I would actually speak to an audience from a stage at the convention center. For whatever reason, when Wade offered an interview style keynote I was a chicken and took the out he was offering. However, in the days before the conference I started thinking about Assistive Tech, how beneficial it has been to me, and ultimately decided to drop Wade from the presentation and do my own thing. So far the reviews have been positive, and I think it was the first time that I've ever received a standing ovation!
A special treat was to have my Mom and my Uncle Mike present for the speech, and they attended the one hour session that I ran afterwards. I kept thinking about how important it was to me to have Uncle Mike home so much in the days after the accident. (For those of you who don't know, my Mom's brother is the Director of Orchestral Studies at Georgia State.) When he's not teaching he's traveling around the country, or the world, with other orchestras, so the fact that he dropped everything and came home was extremely special. I know he was a huge help to my parents, but for me it was special just to spend time with him. I got more quality time with him in those weeks than I think I ever had in my life! But, I digress...
The fact that Mom and Uncle Mike were in the audience was so special to me. While Dad and Sarah have gotten to hear me speak to groups, no one else in the family has ever been part of my audience. While I was on the stage I found myself thinking "this must be how Uncle Mike feels when we come to one of his concerts!" After the keynote I led a one hour question and answer session. I was completely comfortable with this because it was so similar to speaking to classes at IUPUI and UIndy. I had warned Mom and Uncle Mike that I wouldn't censor my answers because they were there and wanted them to be prepared if a topic that we had never discussed came up. They both assured me that whether or not we had discussed some of the more sensitive issues, they certainly knew that I had dealt with them.
Since the conference I have had several visits with patients in the Burn Unit and have been busy with other more "normal" day to day activities. I had a great visit with my new Prosthetist, who is convinced that with some new sockets, alignment adjustments to my legs, and a lot of work on my part that I will be able to walk without the crutches. We'll see...
Oh yeah, the day before the conference I was interviewed by the Indianapolis Star about how "healthy living" has helped with my recovery. The author took a one hour interview and turned it into a really nice short article. A few things got lost in translation, but I really like how it came out! Ever since that article ran people keep stopping me to tell me how inspiring I am. I still have issues with that, but it's nice to know that I'm having a positive impact on people!
I have to admit that I also became obsessed with watching the final season of Battlestar Galactica, which was recently released on DVD. Perhaps that's how August 20th crept up on me so fast...