When I came into this role as APSE’s Executive Director in January, it was inconceivable to me that we would be putting on the national conference in just six months. While much of the groundwork had been laid and much of the planning done, the road ahead was daunting. One by one, board members and APSE members stepped forward to help. You rolled up your sleeves, volunteered for tasks both large and small, and took your own free time to help make this conference powerful.
As we look ahead to just two months from now, I am so excited to meet so many of you with whom I have exchanged emails, participated in conference calls, spoken to on the phone, and maybe even met in person a time or two. I am humbled by the commitment that APSE members demonstrate every day to this organization and its mission–and to your values that make it possible for individuals with disabilities to live, work, and participate in their communities and to live their lives just like anyone else.
When I attended the 2013 APSE conference in Indianapolis, I spent much of time getting to know people whom I’d heard of or read about. When I left the conference, those people became mentors, colleagues, friends. I learned so much that my head hurt. I was exhausted and exhilarated. But most important, I left the conference with a renewed sense of mission and commitment—to the work we do, to the individuals we serve, to the values we hold.
People come to the APSE conference for many reasons. They want to learn best practices, network with people from other states, see old friends, sing karaoke, and to learn. It is a way to reconnect, to network, to build new skills. But perhaps most importantly, people come to the APSE conference because it is an organization driven by history, shared values, and commitment not just to making the world a better place but to making it an equitable place where everyone belongs. I can’t wait to see you in Philly.