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Rebecca Cokley announces departure, next adventure

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June 28, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

I have been at NCD for over four years and with both of us approaching our 39th birthdays, it’s natural to take a moment and evaluate the path we are on. My call to service remains unchanged, but the time to align my purpose and my passion has arrived. My last day as Executive Director of the National Council on Disability is Friday July 7, 2017, but the next adventure is just beginning.

I joined the Obama Administration in early 2009 after serving on the leadership of the first ever Presidential Disability Policy Committee. I can proudly say that I served from lights on to lights off of the Obama administration. To me, President Obama (and Vice President Biden and their teams) exemplified the values of combating a world that had low to no expectations for you, the strength of families and individuals who valued hard work, the importance of bringing people along with you that had never been at the table, and the opportunity to create an administration unlike any other. Like my mentor, Paul Steven Miller, I was fortunate enough to work in the White House and open the doors to parts of the disability community who had never been welcomed in such a way. For a student who had been told when I walked into my high school in 1993 that “kids like you don’t go here”-the very notion that the White House was my workplace seemed like an alternate reality –  and because of that, I can definitely say that events bridging the intersections of race, gender, immigration status, religion, sexual orientation, and disability were some of my proudest moments. Even following my departure from the White House, continuing to serve alongside Claudia Gordon, Taryn Williams, Maria Town, and Leah Katz-Hernandez – especially in the role of NCD Executive Director was truly a blessing.

The Council has always had the gift of foresight  –  looking around the corner to see the issues coming down the line and ensuring the voices of the communities affected are centered in response. This was most apparent even in the days of Lex Frieden’s leadership and Bob Burgdorf’s early work on the Americans with Disabilities Act  – a time when such groundbreaking civil rights legislation was still very much a dream. Today, we continue that dream for all individuals with disabilities by continuing to push the envelope to ensure that all individuals with disabilities have a voice and access to freedoms that were denied to them before. Our work on reforming police violence and mass incarceration  matters, and will continue to matter, because for every one of the letters we received from advocates asking us to weigh in, there are thousands of our siblings behind bars or victims of abuse. Our work on advocating for the civil rights of parents with disabilities matter for every Dad who has to prove he’s a fit parent because he uses a wheelchair (like mine did). Our work on campus sexual assault matters because as we see increased college attendance rates of students with disabilities, we know that they are at an increased risk for assault. Nowhere else in the government does the work that NCD does. We have the pleasure of serving a very passionate community and at the end of the day, I have no doubt that NCD will continue to listen to them about what matters.

It has been a pleasure to serve with two chairpersons, Jeff Rosen and Clyde Terry, both of whom have demonstrated clear leadership to the Council and the Staff. Clyde, your stewardship has been essential in guiding the Council forward and I’ve learned so much working alongside you. The team here at the Council is hard-working and dedicated, and while I will miss them, I have no doubt they will continue to perform exceptionally through the transition.

Many of you who know me, know that I’m constantly thinking about how to better align my purpose and my passion to see increased horizontal alignment across all of our movements. Because of that I have little doubt our paths will cross again. I am eagerly anticipating opportunities to work with all of you in new and exciting ways and look forward to seeing NCD’s body of work yet to come.

In Solidarity,

Rebecca Cokley

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