Ed Roberts, Activist
Dr. William Bronston: How Did You Know Ed Roberts?
Dr. William Bronston: I was a physician in state service and I met Ed, and we just fell in love. I mean, it was just amazing, you know, we were just kindred souls. And I just knew that this guy was the real thing.
He was... had been appointed as the director of the department by Jerry Brown, by the Governor, and the reason for that was that Ed had really been really at that cutting edge, at the demonstration edge of beginning to build a real civil rights movement around people with special needs, especially at UC Berkeley.
And then organized and invented the independent living center system which they established in Berkeley, as the very first one, which was a peer-run, peer-generated program working with all people with disabilities in that region in order to support them to function in the mainstay of society, at school, in the community, and so forth, which was unheard of, unheard of at that time.
The technology was just beginning to happen to allow people to be out in the open instead of locked up in some back room someplace, because there was no way to get them upstairs, get them into buildings, get them on the street, get them into transportation. It was impossible.
So, anyway, I became the Medical Director for the State Department of Rehabilitation, which put me in a very special relationship with him. You know, I wasn't really part of the bureaucracy; I was a consultant to him. And so we began to get involved in some very wonderful and outrageous things.
And what was really key about Ed's position was that he was absolutely committed to living an integrated life. A life of real personal influence and meaning and had this enormous community of people with special needs all around him and in the community that he really understood in his heart of hearts had to be emancipated for the American democracy to work.