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Closing Plenary


Engaging with Congress to Connect Research and Lived Experience to Influence Policy

Join us on Wednesday during the conference for the Closing Plenary: Engaging with Congress to Connect Research and Lived Experience to Influence Policy. Learn about the legislative work and priorities of elected disability advocates in Congress and how you can influence their work.

We will be joined live by Donna Shalala, former US Congresswoman from Florida and President of the University of Miami, the longest serving U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner. Dr. Shalala will be interviewed by our own AUCD Conference Chair and Director of the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami, Danny Armstrong. Their conversation will discuss disability policy, higher education, and the importance of inclusive research.

We will also hear directly from Senator Sherrod Brown (OH), Senator Bob Casey (PA), Senator Tammy Duckworth (IL), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Senator Patty Murray (WA), and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA) via pre-recorded videos about their priorities and what we can do to promote them.


  • #AUCD2021 Virtual Hill Visit Toolkit: Pages 7-9 of the Toolkit provide possible topics to discuss, such as education, healthcare, and employment, as well as links to resources to learn more about those topics.
  • #AUCD2021 Hill Day Virtual Meeting Request: We have provided a sample script that you may individualize to set-up a meeting with members offices for the #AUCD2021 Virtual Hill Day. Note: you will need to fill in the editable fields and delete the highlighted text before sending. 
  • AUCD State Profiles: Find state-specific information about people with disabilities and the AUCD network center(s) in your state.

Once scheduled, please share meeting information with AUCD via our Pre-Meeting Survey.



Donna ShalalaDonna Shalala, PhD
Former US Congresswoman (FL-27)
President, University of Miami

Donna E. Shalala has more than four decades of experience as an accomplished scholar, teacher, and administrator. She is currently Trustee Professor of Political Science and Health Policy at the University of Miami.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Shalala received her A.B. degree in history from Western College for Women. One of the country's first Peace Corps Volunteers, she served two years in Iran. She earned her PhD degree in Political Science and Economics from The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She has held tenured professorships at Columbia University, the City University of New York (CUNY), the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Miami. She served as President of Hunter College of the City University of New York from 1980 to 1987 and as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1987 to 1993.

She served as President of the University of Miami from 2001 to 2015. During her tenure, UM has solidified its position among top U.S. research universities. More recently, Dr. Shalala served as President of the Clinton Foundation from June 2015 to March 2017 and as a Member of the U.S. House of Representative from Florida for one term, 2018 to 2020.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) where she served for eight years, becoming the longest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. history At the end of her tenure, a Washington Post article described her as "one of the most successful government managers of modern times."

She served in the Carter administration from 1977 to 1980 as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In 2007, President George W. Bush handpicked Shalala to co-chair with Senator Bob Dole the Commission on Care for Returning Wounded Warriors, to evaluate how wounded service members transition from active duty to civilian society. In 2009 she was appointed chair of the Committee on the Future of Nursing at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Shalala has more than four dozen honorary degrees and a host of other honors, including the 1992 National Public Service Award and the 1994 Glamour magazine Woman of the Year Award. In 1992 BusinessWeek named her one of the top five managers in higher education and U.S. News & World Report named her one of "America's Best Leaders" in 2005. In 2008 the Council on Excellence in Government named her one the greatest public servants of the past 25 years. In 2008 President Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, and in 2010 she received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights, which recognizes individuals for outstanding dedication to improving the health and life chances of disadvantaged populations in South Africa and internationally.

In 2011 she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York, and in 2014 she was recognized by the Harry S. Truman Library with the Harry S. Truman Legacy of Leadership Award and received the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's highest honor, the Sand in My Shoes Award, for her significant contributions to the Miami community.

One of the most honored academics of her generation, Shalala has been elected to seven national academies: National Academy of Education; the National Academy of Public Administration; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the American Philosophical Society; the National Academy of Social Insurance; the American Academy of Political and Social Science; and the National Academy of Medicine. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Daniel Armstrong, PhDDaniel Armstrong, PhD
Director, Mailman Center for Child Development,
University of Miami

Dr. Armstrong is Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, with multiple leadership roles related to child health at the University of Miami and the Holtz Children's Hospital and Women's Hospital Center at the UM/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, including Executive Vice Chair for the Department of Pediatrics, Director of the Mailman Center for Child Development (UCEDD), Co-director of the University of Miami Sickle Cell Center, Program Director of the University of Miami's Masters of Science in Clinical And Translational Investigations, and co-leader of the Biobehavioral Oncology Program at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. On the hospital side, Dr. Armstrong is Associate Chief of Staff for the Holtz Children's Hospital.

Dr. Armstrong's research focus is on neurodevelopmental mechanisms and outcomes of children with chronic diseases (sickle cell disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS). He has served as part of the scientific leadership of a number of National Institute of Health (NIH) multi-center clinical research trials for the NCI and NHLBI. He was chair of the NHLBI's Congressionally-mandated Sickle Cell Disease Advisory Committee, and is a member of the NCI PDQ Supportive Care Editorial Board. He has been a consultant to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies of Sciences, the Director of the NIH, the Food and Drug Administration, the HRSA/Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and White House.

Dr. Armstrong is actively involved in state and local issues and organizations related to developmental disability and chronic illness, including the Florida Division of the American Cancer Society (President & Chair), Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade County (Board Member), Florida Biomedical Research Advisory Council (Member), and a number of foundation boards and medical advisory panels.


Confirmed Speakers for 2021 Closing Plenary:

Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator Brown first became elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 to represent Ohioans. He supports strengthening and modernizing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 2012, Senator Brown voted yes for Senate approval of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a United Nations treaty created to recognize the rights of persons with disabilities and to protect those rights. He is the Ranking Member on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Read more about Senator Brown on his official webpageTwitter@SenSherrodBrown



Senator Bob Casey

Senator Bob Casey

Senator Casey has been representing Pennsylvanians since 2006. In the summer of 2020, he hosted a Virtual Disabilitity Employment Summit. Senator Casey is the Chairman on the Special Committee on Aging, which can have an oversight role in the legislative process affecting people with disabilities. Read more about Senator Casey on his official webpageTwitter: @SenBobCasey






Senator Tammy Duckworth

Senator Tammy Duckworth

Senator Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. She was among the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring from military service in 2014 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after representing Illinois’s Eighth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms. Read more about Senator Duckworth on her official webpageTwitter: @SenDuckworth



Photo of Kristen Gillibrand

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has served as Senator since 2009. Senator Gillibrand has consistently pushed to support people with disabilities throughout the COVID-19 crisis. When reports emerged early in the coronavirus pandemic that people with disabilities were at risk of disability bias and discrimination within medical decision-making, Senator Gillibrand led a bipartisan, bicameral call to protect civil rights for people with disabilities. Read more about Senator Gillibrand on her official webpageTwitter: @GillibrandNY



Photo of Patty Murray

Senator Patty Murray

Senator Patty Murray of Washington State has been serving in the Senate since 1993. She currently serves as Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which has oversight of legislation affecting people with disabilities. A unique voice in the United States Senate, Patty is known for her down-to-earth, determined style. Read more about Senator Murray on her official webpageTwitter: @PattyMurray





Photo of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers represents with the people of Eastern Washington. She is currently serving as the Chair of the House Republican Conference, a position making her highest ranking female Republican in the House of Representatives. Her mission is to restore trust and confidence in representative government and the rule of law, and lead as a trust-builder, ability-advocate, and unifying force to get results for hardworking men and women in Eastern Washington.
Read more about Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers on her 
official webpageTwitter: @cathymcmorris