Theodore Roosevelt once said that American politics is World politics, a statement that reflects America’s proud role as the world’s moral compass. Yesterday, with the U.S. Senate’s failure to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we lost our bearings. We failed to recognize that the core values reflected in this important treaty — the protection of the rights of all individuals to participate fully and freely in their communities — are precisely the core values of our Constitution and our nation itself.
More than 20 years ago, our country’s political leaders were unified in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act because they realized that it provided a shining example to the world of our commitment to individual liberties and protection of the basic rights of all people. As of today, more than 150 countries worldwide have followed our historical leadership in this area and ratified the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. They have shown that raising a nation’s colors in peace is as important as raising them in conflicts. Indeed, doing so represents the heralding of our greatest collective strengths.
But yesterday, we failed to live up to our own example, and instead showed a watching world that political dissonance has become our nation’s greatest disability.