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AUCD - Plenary C: Key Bipartisan Congressional Champions Share Their Priorities

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Lift Your Voice for Civil Rights!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 9:20 AM - 11:30 AM

Location: Grand Ballroom North/Central Salon

Session Description

This dynamic plenary will provide an opportunity to hear from the new CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a freshman Congresswoman from Delaware with strong ties to the AUCD network, and two key Hill staffers about a new Bill that would accelerate the transition away from subminimum wage and segregated employment and toward competitive, integrated employment. All of the speakers will talk about how disability issues are connected to a more broad agenda for civil rights and social justice, and where there are opportunities to advance that agenda with bipartisan support in the current political climate.

Featured Presenter(s)

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester

Photo of Congresswoman Blunt RochesterLisa began her professional career as a problem-solver and an advocate. A caseworker for then-Congressman Tom Carper, Lisa helped people during challenging times with their Social Security benefits, disability insurance claims, IRS disputes and housing needs. She served in the cabinets of two Delaware governors as the first female African-American Secretary of Labor and the first African-American Deputy Secretary of Health and Social Services and State Personnel Director.

As Secretary of Labor, Lisa managed 500 employees and an $87 million budget; she focused on connecting employers to resources and jobseekers - particularly those on welfare or leaving Delaware prisons. As State Personnel Director, Lisa was commissioned to investigate the Delaware State Police for racial and sexual discrimination. Working with local and national experts in policing and civil rights, the 2001 Blunt-Bradley Report served as a roadmap to improve the internal and external relations of the State Police.

She also served as the CEO of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League - an action-oriented, public policy research think-tank focused on the inclusion of people of color.

Lisa grew up in Wilmington, graduated from Padua Academy, and worked her first job at the McDonald's on Market Street. She majored in International Relations as an undergraduate at Fairleigh Dickinson University and later earned a Master's in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware. Lisa believes our national security requires a strong understanding of the rest of the world. She has helped women enter the workforce in the Middle East, provided vaccines to children in Africa, and co-authored a book while living in China with her late husband Charles. Her book, THRIVE: 34 Women, 19 Countries, One Goal, profiles women who reinvented themselves while living in a foreign country.

Lisa is the proud mother of Alyssa, age 27, and Alex, age 30, both of whom graduated from Delaware's public schools. Education and college affordability are important to her.

Lisa once again made history in 2016 when she was elected to Congress. She was the first woman and the first person of color to represent The First State in such a role.




Vanita Gupta

Vanita Gupta smiles at the camera with an American flag in the background.Vanita Gupta is president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She has been working to advance civil rights her entire career. Before joining The Leadership Conference in June 2017, Gupta served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and head of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. Appointed in October 2014 by President Barack Obama as the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States, Gupta oversaw a wide range of criminal and civil enforcement efforts to ensure equal justice and protect equal opportunity for all during one of the most consequential periods for the division. Under Gupta's leadership, the division did critical work in a number of areas, including advancing constitutional policing and criminal justice reform; prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking; promoting disability rights; protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals; ensuring voting rights for all; and combating discrimination in education, housing, employment, lending, and religious exercise.

Prior to joining the Justice Department, Gupta served as Deputy Legal Director and the Director of the Center for Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union. She joined the ACLU in 2006 as a staff attorney. Gupta began her legal career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Gupta graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and received her law degree from New York University School of Law, where later she taught a civil rights litigation clinic for several years.




Michael Gamel-McCormick, PhD

Photo of MichaelMichael Gamel-McCormick is the Disability Policy Director for Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania working on health, education, employment, civil rights and justice, transportation, housing, and other issues related to federal disability policy. He was also the Disability Policy Director and senior education advisor for Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. He is the former Associate Executive Director for Research and Policy at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. Michael was a professor and dean at the University of Delaware for 17 years and the director of the Center for Disabilities Studies at the university for nine years. His areas of research were early intervention and early childhood education, family support, transition, and disability studies. Prior to his higher education and policy work, Michael was an early childhood teacher and early interventionist for 15 years in Wisconsin and Virginia.



Kimberly Knackstedt

Photo of KimberlyKimberly Knackstedt is the Disability Policy Advisor for the U.S. House of Representatives - Committee on Education and the Workforce minority staff under Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03). She received her Bachelor of Education in Special Education and Elementary Education from Gonzaga University and her Master of Education in Special Education with a focus on low-incidence disabilities from the University of Kansas. She taught special education for four years in Kansas City, KS, before entering the Special Education PhD program at the University of Kansas with a focus on disability policy. Prior to working for the Committee on Education and the Workforce, Kimberly served on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions as the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Public Policy Fellow in 2016 under Senator Patty Murray.