Annie Forts UP with Leadership Award
At the 2019 NH Leadership Funraiser Gala, Forrest Beaudoin-Friede received the 1st Annual Annie Forts UP with Leadership Award. He had the opportunity to speak after receiving his award. Here is his speech.
Good evening, wow, this is a fantastic honor to receive the Annie Forts UP for Leadership Award.
I want to thank the Annie Forts family, Annie Forts was an inspiring leader who helped make my quality of life possible by her example. Thank you to the NH Leadership Series and the Institute on Disability. I also want to thank my mom and dad, my entire supportive family and everyone who has given me opportunities to use my voice.
My parents made sure I was fully included in every aspect of life: I was fully included in school-- kindergarden through12th grade. I played little league baseball, recreational soccer, and football in high school. I had chores on the family farm and learned to do laundry at 12 years old. My younger brother and I had high expectations set for both of us. Although it took him years longer to learn how to play the piano than me.
I kept reaching those high expectations and people kept raising the bar higher for me to achieve new goals. At 20, I realized I needed to live independently in Peterborough, a walkable community with a lively downtown, I got a job to show I was ready for the responsibility and convinced my family to respect my right to live on my own. Many people thought it was a risky move but I can assure you my apartment is cleaner than most college dorm rooms.
Life with the label of disability is not always easy. I know discrimination is real. I know that my brothers and sisters with IEP’s who are in segregated school programs are hurt when they are denied access to an inclusive education. ALL STUDENTS LEARN BETTER WHEN ALL STUDENTS ARE LEARNING TOGETHER.
Another great challenge for people with the label of disability is finding meaningful employment. People with disabilities have talents to share. We can and do want to work. I circled downtown Peterborough businesses for a year and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Whether we are teaching families to raise their expectations of children with disabilities; or telling schools to make inclusion real; or demanding businesses invest in employing people with disabilities- we must work together. Advocacy is a team sport. I LOVE being on advocacy teams working to advance the good life for people who happen to experience disabilities. We are all leaders working for change. A generation ago, Annie Forts, a great leader, and her team of advocates helped create more inclusive communities. I’m grateful now to be on NH’s disability advocacy team demanding full inclusion in every part of community. Everyone. Everywhere. Everyday.
Thank you again for this award, let’s keep creating the good life for everyone!