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Inner Strength insights from the world of sports, disability, entertainment, business, politics and everything else I’d like to share with you.

Monthly Archives: August 2014

Remembering Justin Dart on His Birthday

7236_Dart-Justin-Whitlock-Jr images

Today is the birthday of the late disability rights leader Justin Dart.  Here is an expert from the book, On A Roll: Reflections from America’s Wheelchair Dude with the Winning Attitude featuring his last media interview:

In June 2002, Justin Dart, the father figure in the disability community, had been suffering from congestive heart failure for quite some time, and with Father’s Day approaching, I thought it might be good for our audience to hear his voice. I was concerned about his strength and his ability to do the interview, but he wanted to do it. He was determined to do it. He was on his deathbed, but he wanted to reach out to his people. Imagine the raspy voice of a tired warrior on the other end of a telephone, probably held to his ear by his beloved wife Yoshiko and turn up the radio in your mind:

Me: It’s been a while since we have heard from you Justin, and on Father’s Day do you have a message you would like to say to the disability community? I know you have got a neat perspective having seen things develop over 40 years. What would you like to tell us now?

Justin Dart: Well I would like to say that we are so proud to have passed the ADA built on the 504. And that attitudes of all Americans have changed about people with disabilities. We are real human beings in the human race. That’s different than it used to be. However, now we have to get out and get our rights enforced. While no minority has all their rights enforced, we have to do it, because nobody ever gave rights away. We have to get out of life as usual and become fully 24 hour a day, 365 days a year passionate single-minded advocates for disability rights.

Me: Absolutely. Justin, what would you say on Father’s Day about the institution of fatherhood, you are a father in the literal sense in addition to the figurative sense in being the father of the disability rights movement. Do you have any specific messages about fatherhood for us?

Justin Dart:  Being a father, whether it’s a symbolic father like I am or if it’s a blood father entails lots of responsibilities. And those responsibilities include having to give your sons and symbolic sons the hard advice that the time has come for them to be soldiers of justice. They have to give up life as usual, give up politics as usual and fight for the coming elections to elect people who support disability rights. And they got to fight every day as citizen advocates to create a society where no politicians or no media person would dare attack disability rights because they would risk getting reelected.

Me: How do you feel about what the Supreme Court has been doing recently in terms of whittling away at the Americans with Disabilities Act case by case?

Justin Dart:  The recent court decisions on ADA and others have shown that states’ rights controls the course and they are trying to take us back to the days of states’ rights and power and privilege and the fact the states can do anything they want to people with disabilities and the federal government has no general authority to protect people with disabilities and other citizens on a federal basis. This is truly distressing.

Me:  Yes it truly is. Listen, Justin, I wanted to take a few moments to kind of summarize my feelings about you and what you have done. We are so privileged to have you as a leader in our community. There is so much love that is expressed whenever your name is brought up. It’s just tremendous. And I have never ever seen that about anybody personally. I have heard about that kind of reverence with others in the past that I’ve admired. But to see it first hand and to feel the power and the influence you have had in your life and your career is just amazing. So, Justin, Happy Father’s Day to you. We love you.

Greg & Justin Dart 1999

That interview was June 16, 2002.  Justin left us on June 22.


NFL’s Domestic Violence Policy: Getting it Right

Chicago Bears Fan Greg Smith

By Greg Smith

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is a very smart cookie. Yesterday, he announced that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon would be banned from the league for one year for repeatedly getting busted smoking weed.  The same day, he made the public relations gesture to one-up the weed smoking penalty, kicking players who beat their wives out for six games for the first offense and forever for the second.

In doing so, he beat most critics at the pass. But not this one. I am a huge fan of the NFL and support the commissioner and respect the difficult decisions that he has to make to preserve the game and its integrity. But I am not letting him off the hook this time.

When he made the announcement, Goodell admitted bad judgment by suspending Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for only two games.  (Rice allegedly knocked his future wife out cold and dragged her out of an elevator.) Goodell’s new severe penalties have been well received by domestic violence-prevention advocates.

“I got it wrong,” said Goodell about the Rice suspension, but claiming an error of his ways does not fully correct the situation. The new rule states that players who are “convicted” of domestic violence must serve the suspensions. It says nothing about players who “allegedly” beat women or players who did not face charges.

Ray Rice did not face charges. Therefore the new six game suspension would not apply to him despite his admission of guilt and video evidence.  So under his own rule, the commissioner lied yesterday when he said he didn’t get it right. He did get it right because Ray Rice only “allegedly” hit his then-girlfriend (now wife). The new domestic violence policy would not have affected Rice.

But Goodell’s timing of the new penalties makes a lot of sense. Without his PR intervention yesterday, the critics would have come out of the woodwork.

“You can beat your wife, but you better not get caught smoking a joint.”

The commissioner says he did not get it right in the Ray Rice case. If that is the case, he should suspend Rice for six games. Either that or admit that he did get it right.  I welcome the new domestic violence policy, but it is an affirmation of the commissioner’s initial reaction to the Rice case.  It is not an “I now see the light” moment.  It is a political public relations reaction to what would have been an uproar at a time when the season is about to kickoff… a feel-good time for the league.

Commissioner Goodell, you are doing a great job. The new domestic violence policy will make players think twice in the future about getting physical with women. But be real with the fans.  You need to either suspend Ray Rice for six games or admit that you had it right in the first place.

Greg Smith is a Chicago Bears fan, son of a quarterback and high school football coach, and father of two sons who played college football.  He is a motivational speaker who uses a wheelchair and has muscular dystrophy.  

The Smartphone Tipping Point

The Power to “Police the Police” is in the Palm of Your Hand

Smartphone savvy videographers turn their phones sideways when recording video

First, Mike Brown in Ferguson.  Then Kajieme Powell in St. Louis.  Now Ezell Ford, a mentally disabled 24 year old African American male in Los Angeles.  Shootings and brutality like these recent cases are nothing new. What is new is the fact that most citizens are now armed with a powerful policing device known as the smartphone.  Everyone should be aware of his or her rights to videotape in public places.  Police officers do not have the right to confiscate your camera in a public place for any reason.

These shootings were the “tipping point.”  The landscape has changed regardless of of the judicial outcome of these cases because people now have powerful video evidence of laws being broken.  This ACLU article explains your rights under the law to videotape.

Turn Your Smartphone Sideways for Video

It is important to remember to turn your phone sideways when recording video evidence.  The aspect ratio matches television and computer screens better in “landscape” mode.  Furthermore, a wider shot can reveal more evidence.  This video is a little too long but check it out and make it viral.  A rap version is a timely opportunity for an aspiring artist!  



Disabled Can Be Givers Too!

Greg Arms Up

By Greg Smith

There is a perception in our society that having a severe disability is a fate worse than death. But I can think of many scenarios in life that would seem worse than my life with MD:

Living in extreme poverty, being hungry, being illiterate, being without a family, living in a loveless family, living in a household where there is domestic violence, having a terminal medical diagnosis like cancer, being incarcerated, being addicted to drugs or alcohol… I have respect and admiration for people in all of those categories, yet I would not trade places with them.

Heck, I’d rather have muscular dystrophy than be just plain ugly or stupid! My muscular disease is more of a pain in the butt that it is a suffering.

I’m just being real, with you but our culture continues to insist on placing us with disabilities in a ghetto of the least fortunate, deserving of urgent pity. And millions of dollars are raised to help us… to cure us, fix us, and eliminate the problem: eliminate disability.

Disability will never go away because it is a part of the natural diversity that is human life. I would rather focus my energies eliminating other problems that can be solved.

Help me inspire underprivileged youth by supporting my book drive.

That is why I am mounting a campaign that will benefit underprivileged youth, between the ages of 18 and 24. These young people have been through some very rough circumstances, yet have emerged with aspiration. I will be delivering a keynote address August 20 at the Gulfport Job Corps to inspire them even more, and through this campaign, my hope is to leave each student copies of my books.

If you support the concept of a disabled guy seeking donations to benefit non-disabled people, please donate towards my cause to put my books in the hands of underprivileged youth.

You can donate any amount. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to make a difference in the world in a way that is not related to my disability at all. It feels great! Click here to donate:


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