SourceAmerica's 2019 Grassroots Advocacy Conference: A Father's Perspective - Day Two With The Rock Stars

By Robert Pelikan 07/18/2019
SourceAmerica's 2019 Grassroots Advocacy Conference: A Father's Perspective - Day Two With The Rock Stars

Day two started with breakfast. By a stroke of luck, RJ and I ended up at a table with Kenny, an Army veteran, and one of his co-workers, Jessie. They both work for ACHIEVE Human Services at the Yuma Proving Ground (YPG). Kenny is a Raiders fan, but I don’t hold that against him. He told me some cool stories about working at Fort Hood and about some of the issues he faces on a daily basis. We need to do everything we can to protect his job and the jobs of many others like him. Kenny is a servant leader who gets the job done and helps his employees even when his body hurts. He is a born leader who leads by example. Jessie is a quiet young man that I also had the pleasure of meeting. He works with Kenny at the YPG and enjoys his job.

Jon Porter, a former Congressman from Nevada and current President/CEO of the Porter Group, was our morning speaker. He is one of those genuine good guys. His speech was very uplifting, and as a former member of Congress, he had a lot of great information to help us prepare for the next two days of meetings on Capitol Hill. After his speech, RJ and I went and talked with him for a few minutes. RJ had his picture taken with him, and he gave RJ his business card. We got an autograph from the next speaker, John Kelly, the Vice President of Government Affairs & Public Policy at SourceAmerica. His signature is on our certificates for Excellence in Advocacy.

During break time, RJ spoke with another self-advocate named Keith. They had a few things in common. They are both Black Belts in Taekwondo, and they love video games. And, since Keith is a St. Louis Blues fan, they were also rooting for the same team to win the Stanley Cup. When I heard that Keith would be meeting with people from Missouri’s delegation, I couldn’t help but wonder if the topic of hockey would come up in any of their conversations.

After our break, RJ went to work with Richard Sebastian, Jr., President and CEO of The Kennedy Center in Connecticut, and Anthony Green from Palmetto Goodwill Services. I was in the room next door with Robin Kennedy, Vice President of Mission Advancement at Opportunities, Inc. It became apparent that the self-advocates next door were enjoying themselves as their joy echoed back into our room. I met Southport and sat down next to her. Vickyilynn, better known as Remi’s mom, was from the same area of Connecticut that I grew up in. I went to the same grade school as her daughter Remi; it’s a small world after all. We all took turns introducing ourselves and telling a little bit about our walk through this tiny planet we call earth. We were from all corners of the states but united in one purpose; we are the advocates for the rock stars. Robin’s presentation was enjoyable and very informative. She is a very compassionate and charismatic person. You can tell she loves her job.

During lunch, there were a couple more speakers. The speakers were very different, and they had very different messages, but they were both AbilityOne Congressional Champions. RJ caught up with Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, and he was gracious enough to pose for a picture.

All in all, there are a combined 153 representatives and senators who are AbilityOne Congressional Champions. Given how important these champions are, and what they stand for, that number should be 535.

To wrap up the lunch festivities, we were treated to a white chocolate Capitol building filled with mousse for dessert after enjoying stuffed chicken. The conversation at lunch with Shawn Ferguson, Vice President of Government Relations and Chief of Staff to Chairman Timothy Shriver at Special Olympics, was very enjoyable. Shawn spoke of his time working not just for Special Olympics, but also for the Redskins and other great organizations.

It had been a great day so far, and the Celebration of Stories was up next:

Two hours long and better than any movie, these stories showed the A-list rock stars in action. They are real people, not paid actors, and they told their stories like only they can.

After the Celebration of Stories, it was off for a walk to Chinatown for dinner, but once RJ saw Five Guys, it was game over. Then we went for a stroll to Ford’s Theatre and walked back to the hotel and went to bed. My roommate snored all night, but eventually I ended up falling to sleep while listening to MercyMe. I watched the movie I Can Only Imagine on the flight from Phoenix. I highly recommend watching it. It's about singer Bart Millard of MercyMe (played by J. Michael Finley) and centers around his life and his father (played by Dennis Quaid). The theme of the story centers around forgiveness, but another theme of the movie is working hard to follow your dreams. Going to Capitol Hill tomorrow is a dream come true for my son, RJ.

Day three is going to be awesome!