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A Day in the Life of Ed Roberts

Lee Roberts talks about his father, Ed Roberts

Breakthrough Moments

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Lee Roberts: Well I want to share a couple of the breakthrough moments in my father's life. There were a couple of times that I really... I really feel he got... He lit up like... I mean he has so many experiences in his life, but there's a few things that I remember from being a kid that were dramatic to him and what he experienced.

One was the opening of the World Institute on Disability. He had founded the Center for Independent Living, but there was just a special day for him when the World Institute on Disability started. That was truly his baby. And he had... I remember him telling me about his vision to make the World Institute on Disability become, you know, centers that people can use anywhere and everywhere just like with the disabled student moments at Cal, the disabled students program, so the founding... the opening of WID was one.

And another moment was him when he got a chance to meet face to face with Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was someone who my father said always followed through on his word. So he got a chance to meet him face to face in the White House. And all he wanted to say to him was one thing, but after that one thing was done, the rest of the night and after, you know, talking with Bill later like it had such an impact on Bill and my father. My father simply walked up to him when he had his chance and said, "You could create a million jobs overnight by creating a national in-home supportive system." That was it. And then after that Bill was talking, they were talking for a while. I was just observing from the side. And that... He said that was one of his moments where you just don't get a lot of time, but you make sure you take full advantage of your time. And he did, and I think that... From what I know, that changed a lot as far as his ability to make initiatives that he wanted go through. And Bill Clinton seemed to follow through on his word.

I would say one more is when he blew Larry King's mind because Larry King was interviewing him on a show. My father had listened to Larry King and had always wanted to set him straight on a couple of issues. And so it came right at the very beginning of the interview when he was being interviewed. Larry King introduced him as like here... "We're here with Ed Roberts the father of the Independent Living Movement and also a victim of polio." And my father said, "No, not a victim." And so Larry King then went, kind of you see it and he just went back and he said, "Not a victim. You're saying you're not a victim?" And my father said, "No. No, Larry, you've got it all wrong. I was disabled by polio, but I am not a victim of polio in any sense of the word."

My father didn't really like showing his disappointments. He... He had a way of internalizing things sometimes because he always wanted to give an outward projection that he was everything... He wanted to give an outward projection that everything was okay. He wanted to bring out the best in people and often sacrificed some of the things that he wanted most for other people.

He didn't like telling me... He didn't like showing me a lot of things that... He was mad on an everyday level because he was so passionate about what he did and what he was fighting for. There was a drive in him that was part passion and part angry at at…why things were looked at the way they were. That's kind of what I got from him was that there was a fueled fire underneath there that was the sense that he was just trying to make things equal for all types of people, and in this case it was the Independent Living Movement and my father. So that was... I'd say that's a continuous... a continuous anger that was in him that brought out the passion.

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