The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Promoting Independence, Productivity, Self-Determination, Integration and Inclusion
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Dr. Burton Blatt, Syracuse University
March 1984 Speech at Holiday Inn Airport, Pittsburgh, PA

Part One  Part Two  Part Three  Part Four  Part Five  Part Six

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All right, I'll tell you what's in the news. This is not my regular speech, so when you fill out the evaluation, you have to discount this part of it, all right?

In yesterday's Times and our own local paper, there's an article on the fearless New York City School Superintendent Anthony Alvarado. I'm sure even in Pittsburgh you've heard of Anthony Alvarado. You haven't? Anthony Alvarado is Superintendent of Schools in New York City, thank you very much, New York City, the largest school system in America. He makes about $95,000 a year, that's his salary, and he borrows about $95,000 a year from some of his employees.

(Noise from next door.)

I'm going to have some time today. With my ear and this guy next door, it's going… Well, anyway, this guy borrowed a great deal of money from employees and owed, oh, I don't know, $20,000-25,000 in parking fines. He was a scofflaw. And there was an accusation that there was an unfiled income tax he should have filed of a hundred some odd thousand dollars. Well, anyway… I mean this is the superintendent of schools in the City of New York. And you know what his comment was to all of that? "Nobody's perfect."

There's a point I'm going to make here. In the same paper a couple of days ago, the other fearless leader, the Governor of Colorado, Richard Lamm, says, as you all had to read. If you haven't read about this, you better see my doctor because you need not only your ears checked but your brain. You had to hear about this one. "Elderly people who are terminally ill have a duty to die and get out of the way instead of trying to prolong their lives by artificial means," says Governor Richard Lamm.

Now there's a connection between the both of these, uh, events. A superintendent of schools, a man who is earning more money than most Americans. AJ, I'd put in a complaint to this hotel, I mean when it's, what?

(Background talking)

Yeah, this is nuts. I'm really apologizing, but you don't know how disconcerting this is, especially for someone who, you know is what they call minimally brain damaged. I can't… I can't separate the figure from the ground. I'm unable to keep out all of these external intrusions. It's very, very hard, especially for someone like me, to concentrate on you while I got somebody behind me trying to give me a speech and telling me that the coffee is ready.

Well, the connection… the connection is that anybody who's making almost a $100,000 and has to borrow the way he does from people who work for him and cheat on his income tax and not pay his parking fines, that person has forgotten something, the same thing the Governor of Colorado has forgotten, and that is each of them has forgotten his mortality.

Each of them has forgotten that we all go, you're not going to take it with you, and there's no… no reason, there's no point to accumulate things that you're not entitled to and you'd better be pretty careful about who you say has a responsibility to knock himself off, because some day you're going to be in that category.

But you see, the Governor of Colorado doesn't think he's ever going to die, he's ever going to get old. He's not going to get old and he's not going to die. He's always going to be young and beautiful and on the cover of People magazine. He's going to be wealthy and powerful, otherwise he wouldn't say that.

And Mr. Alvarado, he's got to accumulate it. And that's the whole point, the point of Baby Doe, the point of institutionalization, the point of telling old people there's a time where you, you gotta get out of here, we're going to knock you off, because you're not carrying your weight anymore. A society that does that, that's not only a mean and nasty society, that's a society led by people who themselves have forgotten their own mortality.

All right. Now, here comes my talk. I'm here to announce my… today, to you people, for the first time anywhere, my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States.

(Audience laughing)

All right. Why did I get laughter when I said that? I'm very serious about this, I'm announcing my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States.

I decided to announce it in Pittsburgh. I thought that would be an appropriate place to launch my candidacy. Well, listen, when you think about the alternatives, really. And besides, it seems that I'm well known to all those big shots. Now look, in yesterday's… the day before yesterday's mail, no joke, day before yesterday, I got a letter from the President of the United States. I'm not kidding you.

"Dear Mr. Blatt," not Burt, but… it's signed by Ronald Reagan, it's true. "I'm very grateful for all you have done to support me over the past three years as I've worked to rebuild our economy and our defenses. Together, you and I have brought our nation away from the brink of economic disaster facing us when I took office in 1981." And he goes on to tell me all the things he has done and to thank me for all the support I've given him. He's also told me that "together we must refute the Democrats' charges point by point and expose their statements for what they are, a blatant attempt to win back the reins of political power," and, of course, he's asked for a few bucks.

Now I didn't even know the president knew me and knew all the support I gave him. As a matter of fact, I'm going to tell you a little secret, I didn't know all the support I gave him until he just told me about it.

And not only did I get a letter from the President of the United States, in the last month I got one from Mr. Mondale, and I got one from Mr. Hart, and I am certain I'm going to get one from Mr. Jackson. I didn't get one from Mr. McGovern. I didn't think he had enough money for the stamps, but had he had enough money for the stamps, he would have sent me one to all of my good friends.

And I figure if all of those people know me well enough to send me a letter like this thanking me for my support and my encouragement knowing so much about me, the least I could do is join their club and run for President myself.

And I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it. So that's why I'm here today to announce my candidacy, and if I bring this up during the day, I don't want anybody to laugh. I need all the encouragement I can get. And when I hear laughs, which sound a little bit like snickers, I get the feeling that you're not taking this announcement seriously enough. And that's going to shake my confidence.

Now, why do I think, I, I have a chance, especially today. Well… I've always been anti-government. I'm not… I'm a patriotic person, I don't want anybody to misunderstand. I don't want you to call the FBI or anything about me. I'm not one of these shady characters, but I have been critical of the government.

And it didn't matter, doesn't matter whether it be the Democrats or the Republicans. They're all stinkers, I've come to conclude. Now the former government, they didn't know anything about the poor and about the handicapped, about the disenfranchised, and that used to trouble me for a long time. That used to trouble me.

The current government is different. They don't want to know. It's worse today, it's worse today. I did a little survey the last two or three weeks in preparation for this thing.

Hey, you really scared them, AJ. Look at that. See that? Not a… What? Betsy. Where is Betsy? You really did a hell of a job, Bets, you scared them. Look at that. They don't push us around. I mean, what the hell. If Jesse Jackson was in here and somebody was making noise next door, they'd stop, right? It's the same thing. Right? You better believe it.

Okay… it's the… it's a government that doesn't want to know. I did a survey with some of my friends the last two or three weeks. This is true. I only tell the truth. It sometimes is distorted, but I only tell the truth. I did a survey with some of my friends the last couple of weeks. I asked them about their income tax. (We gotta scare 'em again.)

I asked them about their income taxes and whether they're paying or getting back. I haven't met a friend who isn't getting something back, and these are all essentially upper middle class people, wealthy people, doctors, professors, lawyers. Every one of them are getting returns, every single one of them.

You ask the poor people whether they're getting money back. Now, it's nice for us, it's nice for us, it really is. The rich are gonna get richer and the poor are gonna get poorer. If that's what you want, you got it. Keep… keep at it. Vote them all in.

But that's what the government is doing. That's what the country is becoming. The wealthy are getting wealthier and the poor and the have-nots and the disabled and the disenfranchised are getting weaker and poorer.

Audio: 1984 Speech National AAMD
Listen (with Transcript)

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