I received an email invitation that read as follows.

“You are cordially invited to join senior White House and administration officials at an event in observance of Autism Awareness Month.

The event will take place on Monday, April 25, 2011, at the White House.”

It was with some trepidation and curiosity that I regarded my invitation to this event. You see, it arrived on April 1st and asked for some pretty detailed information, like social security number, birth date, etc. However, after doing some quick fact checking I remembered Kareem Dale and found it to be legit. At that point I felt honored.

I had no idea what to expect, but my mind kept pushing phrases like “dog and pony show” or, in the modern parlance, “awareness event” which seems like code for “opportunity to show everyone how awesome we are.” I was really hoping that wouldn’t be the case but living in the DC area makes one somewhat cynical regarding the political process.

I was a little disappointed to find out that it was not at the actual White House, but instead at the Eisenhower building immediately adjacent to the White House. Still, there was no way I wasn’t going to this, so I pressed a shirt, delinted my blazer and headed to the District.

Luckily I knew, or at least had met, a few folks that were there. Lee Grossman, head of the Autism Society of America, introduced me to Ari Ne’eman and Scott Roberts of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. It was great meeting two adults on the spectrum who handled themselves with such aplomb. We exchanged cards and I hope to run into both of them again as my advocacy efforts continue. I also ran into Jeff Sell, VP of Public Policy and lead counsel for ASA. I exchanged cards with a few other folks and then the proceedings began.

First up was Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement. She gave a nice speech and handed the mic over to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services who is the speaker pictured above. I was interested in her remarks, as HHS has not always been a friend to the autism community, but she spoke mainly in generalizations about better communication and coordination. I agree with both ideas, but was hoping for something a little more revealing vis-a-vis administration policy/strategy initiatives.

Next was lunch, which was a big hit with everyone. Then we had breakout sessions. I was assigned to Community Based Services, which is pretty much where I live anyway, so I was happy with my assignment. I grabbed my lunch and headed to the elevators.

Read Part 2 of this series: https://raynelsonrealtor.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/the-white-house-autism-awareness-conference-2011-part-2/

Read Part 3 of this series: https://raynelsonrealtor.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/the-white-house-autism-awareness-conference-2011-part-3/