For the next 36 days (from March 28 to May 2), I will be contacting and writing about 36 extraordinary members of the House of Representatives. They are all extraordinary in that they form the bipartisan Congressional Spina Bifida Caucus, and so they strive to address the unique needs of the spina bifida community in the U.S. My “mission” is to write to them, and urge them to make quality of life, and not solely prevention, a priority on their agenda in Congress. It has come to my attention that education about spina bifida is critical during all the stages of development– from planning to prevent spina bifida through the consumption of folic acid, to comprehensive education about spina bifida once it is diagnosed. We need to educate, starting with the physicians and other healthcare providers, so that they will be made aware of the potential that each child with spina bifida possesses.
I see this Congressional Caucus as a great starting point, as they have already committed to educating their colleagues in Congress about spina bifida.
Many politicians in Congress, from both the left and the right, make exaggerated claims about “reaching across the aisle” and meeting the opposite party in a decision.
Rep. Chris Smith does things a little differently. A moderate Republican, Smith reached across continents in order to assist a distressed constituent who is technically out of Smith’s district.
In June 2004, David Goldman’s wife took off to Brazil with their nine-year-old son. It wasn’t until January 2009, when an episode of “NBC Dateline” was aired on Goldman’s story, that Smith felt compelled to get involved– but he had to be persuaded by his wife, first. So, the congressman dropped everything and flew to Brazil with a hope and a prayer, with Goldman in tow. The pair visited several government offices, talking to anyone who would listen to Goldman’s heart-wrenching story.
In February 2009, when Goldman was granted a visitation with his son, Smith stood by his side.
Finally, on December 22nd, a grateful Goldman was awarded full custody of his boy by a Brazilian supreme chief justice. Smith again flew to Brazil, sacrificing Christmas with his family, so that he could be there when father and son were reunited– on Christmas Eve.
Yes, it sounds like something out of a Jimmy Stewart film, and yet it only happened last year. The point is that Rep. Smith doesn’t hesitate to put his political agenda aside and just do what is right for the people he is charged with taking care of.
And, to top it off, Smith is a member of the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking, the Coalition on Autism Research and Education, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, and the Animal Welfare Caucus, to name just a few.
But, when interviewed by the NJ Monthly, he deflected all praise by saying, “Look, I just did what my faith and being in this strategic position allowed me to do. And I was just following my wife’s orders.”
That sounds like a true hero to me!
Before I go, I’d like to tell you about something indirectly related to this blog. Today, Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin announced on his own blog that he is, in fact, “a fortunate homosexual man.” Element of surprise notwithstanding, there was a lot of buzz on Twitter, on Google, and in the blogosphere. Still, I didn’t dwell on this “news” too much, so imagine my surprise when I find that my blog’s readership had spiked to a phenomenal level– especially the entry titled “Day 29- Ricky Martin.”
Moral of the story– if I’ve written about you, and you’re planning to come out of the closet, don’t hesitate! You will be simultaneously doing the gay rights cause and the spina bifida cause a great service. My absolute best wishes and blessings to Ricky and his precious twin boys.