Children are Vermont’s greatest natural resource. As the adults who care for them, it is our duty to help them reach their highest potential, in both academics and personal character. The Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council ( S I L C ) sponsored Include K – 12 curriculum fulfills both of these duties. First, it brings an important and largely untold piece of our history into the classroom. Second, it teaches self sufficiency, self esteem and respect for others.
My father fought in World War II and lost both of his legs in combat. He returned to Vermont in a wheelchair, but refused to let that stop him from living his life to the fullest. I lost him when I was 11 years old, but when I think of him, I don’t remember him as a man with a disability. I remember him for all the things he did for me, my mother and my brothers, and how involved he was in our lives. While others may have seen him as disabled, I saw him as someone who let nothing get in the way of being a wonderful dad and a great inspiration to many.
In 2014, the Vermont Legislature passed the “Respectful Language” bill, and it is now Vermont law. This is a huge step for Vermont in recognizing that respect, inclusion and integration for people with disabilities is an expectation, not a choice. This curriculum gives me hope that future generations will be effortlessly respectful, as these concepts won’t be “new ideas” for them, but rather life as they’ve always known it. I applaud the efforts of everyone involved in this curriculum, from the Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council to the educators who developed it to you, the teachers, who are making the choice to teach your students not just how to be smart, but how to be good as well.
Thank you for ensuring that Vermont’s children continue to lead by example and find new ways to make us proud.
~ Lieutenant Governor, Phil Scott.