Dominoes Episode Three

As Charley was thinking about his first meeting with his interns, he wanted to get a sense of their thinking about what it takes to make a difference. He decided to share with them a story or one difference maker and ask them about their thoughts.


I’ve written a story of a difference maker I would like to share with you. As you read this story, I would like you to reflect on what it takes to make a difference. Then go to our chat room and share your thoughts. Here’s the story.

Justin Dart was born into a family of wealth.  At age 18, he contracted polio right before entering college.  He persisted in completing his education, earning degrees in both history and education.  Unfortunately, the University of Houston would not give him a teaching certificate because of his disability.

While Dart was a successful entrepreneur, he discontinued his business career to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.  He and his wife went on a nationwide campaign to help organize activists for disabled persons’ rights.  He funded the campaign out of his own resources.  The campaign was often a challenge because of the lack of accommodations for persons with disabilities.

Working in and out of government, Dart was able to get Congress to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.  Once the ADA was passed, there were attempts to weaken the legislation.  Dart continued to fight for the rights of people with disabilities, even after suffering from serious heart ailments brought on by the polio he had as a teen.

Dart was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton. He is known today as the Father of the ADA.

As he was dying, he wrote a challenge to all of us.  “Listen to the heart of this old soldier.  Our lives, our children’s lives, the quality of the lives of billions in future generations hangs in the balance.  I cry out to you from the depths of my being.  Humanity needs you.  Lead!  Lead!  Lead the revolution of empowerment.  Lead on!”

The online discussion was just what Charley hoped it would be. The interns were inspired, but they also provided very insightful comments. Charley summarized them in a note back to the interns:


Great reflections on Justin Dart’s story. I’ve summarized a few of the comments below. I’ve placed in bold some of the traits I hope we will be able to help you develop.

 “His own challenges gave him a True Voice of concern just not the voice of someone thought to be a do-gooder.

 “His experience led to a Positive but Sustained Outrage.”

 “He was Persistent and never backed down.”

 “He never felt the journey for fairness was truly accomplished. He had a Not Done Attitude.

 “He built support from the grass roots level. He was able to establish a Broad Platform that challenged Congress to say yes.

Charley was very encouraged by this beginning with his interns. In fact, he had learned a lot from them as he read their posts.

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“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say it’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem, then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” – Fred Rogers

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