University welcomes President of Ireland Mary McAleese for Tuesday campus visit, public address
University welcomes President of Ireland Mary McAleese for Tuesday campus visit, public addressApril 27, 2007Kevin Morrowkdmorrow@syr.edu
Mary McAleese holds a compelling, personal desire to help those with disabilities: From her childhood growing up with a deaf brother; as a teen volunteering for the learning disabled community of Muckamore Abbey Hospital in County Antrim, Northern Ireland; as pro-vice chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, creating a program providing academic access for deaf students; to these last nearly 10 years as president of Ireland, stumping countrywide and internationally for disability rights and social inclusion.
“In Ireland, as around the world, we are embarking on a new journey in terms of attitudes, perceptions and expectations of those with disability,” McAleese says. “We are presented with the opportunity to be agents of profound change in the life of those human beings who are severely challenged, not just by their disabilities but by the attitudes which exclude them, the structures which shut them out, and the preconceptions which falsely limit their horizons.”
McAleese will carry this message of change to Central New York when she visits Syracuse University on Tuesday, May 1, as part of the Centennial Year Celebration of SU’s School of Education, which itself is renowned for significant accomplishments in disability teaching practices and inclusive education.
The highlight of McAleese’s visit will be her public address at 2 p.m. in Hendricks Chapel. The event is open to the community; no tickets are required, and seating is first-come, first-served. Additional public seating for a closed-circuit television feed is available in Room 010 of Crouse-Hinds Hall. Public parking is available in Booth Garage on Comstock Ave.; for a campus map, visit http://parking.syr.edu. The event will also be webcast live at http://soe100.syr.edu and viewable on campus television sets via the Orange Television Network (Campus Channel 2).
At the chapel, Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor will offer welcoming remarks, and School of Education Dean Douglas Biklen will introduce the president. Following her remarks, McAleese will participate in about 15 minutes of questions and answers with the audience and will then be presented with a gift — an original sculpture by Native American artist and SU alumna Tammy Tarbell-Boehning.
Prior to her speech, McAleese will be the guest of honor at a luncheon at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center, welcomed by Cantor and U.S. Rep. Jim Walsh, and receiving a joint proclamation from Syracuse Mayor Matthew Driscoll and Onondaga County Executive Nicholas Pirro. She will also visit the Place of Remembrance, meeting student Remembrance Scholars and laying a bouquet of flowers at the monument to those who died in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
At the conclusion of her Hendricks Chapel address, McAleese will tour the SU College of Law’s Disability Rights Clinic in MacNaughton Hall and will sit down with a group of law students and faculty in a college courtroom before departing campus.
“I am very much looking forward to visiting Syracuse University, renowned for its long-established efforts to mainstream inclusion of those people in our society who are most in danger of being left out by virtue of disability,” McAleese says.
“Today we are challenged as a society to do all that we can to ensure that no life is only half-lived or wasted through lack of opportunity, lack of choice and too many obstacles,” she says. “The journey to full social inclusion is a journey started and ongoing; its guiding principle, a shift of attitude from disability to ability. Together, with organizations such as Syracuse University’s Disability Rights Clinic, we have the opportunity to mould a disability-sensitive society where the talents and genius of the disabled will be able to flourish and make the fullest contribution to all aspects of life.”
At her inauguration ceremony in November 1997, McAleese dedicated her presidency to “Building Bridges” within Irish society and, again, at the beginning of her second term of office in 2004, the president re-committed herself to “encourage self-belief amongst the most marginalised.”
During her time in office, McAleese has interacted with the disabled community of Ireland through visits to the many disability sector organizations devoted to advocacy, education, self-help, outreach, care and support. She has spoken at numerous conferences and events on the theme of disability rights and social inclusion.
In 1999, McAleese launched the Fulbright Scholarship in Deaf Studies on behalf of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and Trinity College Dublin — an academic partnership to promote awareness of the distinctive nature of deaf language and culture. That same year, she received the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award on behalf of Ireland for commitment to the full and equal participation of people with disabilities in Irish society.
A proud highlight of her presidency came in 2003, when Ireland hosted the Special Olympics World Summer Games, the national response to which — both at the state and voluntary levels — demonstrated huge public support for a fully inclusive society.