kathy award upcloseVPLC’s own Kathy Pryorreceived the disAbility Law Center’s highest award at their Liberty and Justice for ALL Annual Gala. Kathy received the Darrel Tiller Mason Excellence in Advocacy Award tonight for her advocacy on behalf of the elderly and disablede’re proud to work with such an amazing attorney advocate and leader.

Read Kathy’s gracious and wonderful acceptance speech:   kathy speech with sign interpreter

I am so honored to receive this Darrel Tillar Mason Excellence in Advocacy Award.  Thank you!  As I look around this room, I see so many people who have been doing the hard work of advocacy for many years—advocating for the poor, for the disability community, for nursing home residents, and others.  I am honored to be among this group of caring committed people and I share this award with so many—

  • I share this award with my wonderful colleagues at the Virginia Poverty Law Center who, each year, tirelessly fight the good fight at the General Assembly, advocating on behalf of Virginia’s poor in a forum where the poor aren’t particularly popular but often have no one else to advocate for them—in seeking Medicaid expansion, working against predatory lending, ensuring that those receiving public benefits are treated with respect.
  • I share this award with those in the legal aid community around the state who advocate on behalf of their many low-income clients, saving clients from eviction, abusive relationships, predatory loans, nursing home discharges, termination of public benefits.
  • I share this award with the long term care ombudsman around the state who I am privileged to work with.  The ombudsman work tirelessly for nursing home and assisted living residents many of whom have complicated and seemingly intractable problems; and they have to face off against corporate administrators who too often seem to care more about the bottom line than the people they serve.
  • And I share this award with the advocates at the disAbility Law Center and other organizations around the state who advocate for those who are physically or intellectually challenged.

As I thought about saying a few words tonight, I tried to decide what excellence in advocacy means.  And what came to me is not actually the definition of advocacy, but I think it IS what all you who share this award have in common. What you all share is the idea of standing with and giving voice to those who may be unable to stand up for themselves or effectively give voice to their own needs or concerns.  Our efforts may not always be successful—certainly many of my efforts have not been.  But we do have some successes along the way.  And perhaps the act of presence with and standing up for vulnerable individuals and giving voice to their rights and needs is at least as important as whatever we might actually accomplish for them.

For those issues we address which seem to be insolvable, at least in our lifetimes, I leave you with this story from Following the Path by Joan Chittister:

“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a coal mouse asked a wild dove.

“Nothing more than nothing,” the dove answered.

“In that case I must tell you a marvelous story,” the coal mouse said. “I sat on a fir branch close to the trunk when it began to snow.  Not heavily, not in a raging blizzard.  No, just like in a dream, without any violence at all.  Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch.  Their number was exactly 3,471,952.  When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch—nothing more than nothing—as you say—the branch broke off.”  Having said that, the coal mouse ran away.

The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on peace, thought about the story for awhile.  Finally, she said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”

 

That is why we do advocacy—surely it is to help individuals today and to improve things incrementally along the way.  But we also hold onto that hope that ours might be that one voice which had been lacking for peace…or Medicaid expansion…or quality nursing home care…to finally come to Virginia.

Thank you for all your work and, on behalf of all of you, thank you for this award.

Kathy and mom