The Honorable Tom Ridge
Tom Ridge has committed his life to public service. In his many capacities, he has advocated for the rights of people with disabilities to have equal access to productive lives through employment and has actively translated the civil rights protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into meaningful work force access. The former Governor of Pennsylvania who served as the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, has chaired the National Organization on Disability’s Board of Directors since 2006. Under his leadership, the organization has adopted a strategic focus on employment of people with disabilities. Ridge partnered with NOD’s Emergency Preparedness Initiative for the first ever conference on Emergency Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities. Under his leadership, the Department of Homeland Security also implemented an aggressive program to hire people with disabilities.
Mr. Ridge has also delivered powerful testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in support of U.S. ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He advocated strongly for the strengthening of affirmative action requirements for federal contractors under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and has defended the ADA against efforts to weaken enforcement by adding notification requirements.
Prior to his appointment as Homeland Security Advisor, Mr. Ridge was twice elected Governor of Pennsylvania and served from 1995 to 2001. Governor Ridge is a 1967 honors graduate of Harvard and holds a law degree from the Dickinson School of Law. He was drafted into the army during law school and served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star for Valor. He has tinnitus and a hearing loss as a result of his military service and wears a hearing aid. He was one of the first enlisted Vietnam combat veterans elected to the US Congress when he won that office in 1982, having previously been assistant district attorney for Erie County.
The Honorable Bobby Scott (invited)
Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott was elected in November of 2018 to a fourteenth term in Congress representing Virginia’s Third Congressional District. Prior to serving in the House of Representatives, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1978 to 1983 and in the Senate of Virginia from 1983 to 1993. In January, Congressman Scott will become the Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, a committee he has served on since his arrival to Congress in 1993. In his capacity as the Chair of the Committee, he will continue to focus on ensuring that millions of Americans have the opportunity to get a quality education and go to work every day knowing that they will be treated fairly, paid a decent and living wage, given a safe environment in which do their jobs and provided access to affordable health care.
Congressman Scott is also a recognized champion of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and has fought to protect the rights and civil liberties of all Americans. In 1997, he protected the right of all children with disabilities to obtain a free and appropriate education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by leading a successful effort to defeat amendments aimed at curtailing that right for some children. He is also a leading opponent of efforts to permit employment discrimination in federally funded programs. In November, Congressman Scott introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act (KASSA), which would establish federal standards to curtail the use of seclusion and restraint in U.S. classrooms.
Congressman Scott was born on April 30, 1947 in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Newport News, Virginia. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Boston College Law School. After graduating law school, he returned home to Newport News and practiced law from 1973 to 1991. He received an honorable discharge for his service in the Massachusetts National Guard and the United States Army Reserve.