I have no idea what kind or kinds of music Elizabeth Emken, who’s running to replace Dianne Feinstein in the U.S. Senate, listens to although she doesn’t strike me as the heavy metal type. That said, I’m quite certain she’s at least familiar with U2.
In addition to being the biggest rock band on the planet (with the possible exception of the Rolling Stones, who hardly qualify as a band anymore), U2 and in particular Bono are known for active stances in social causes. In Bono’s case, his primary focus is debt relief for, and alleviating suffering from AIDS in, Africa. To accomplish this, Bono works with politicians and leaders from both sides of the aisle. This has raised many an eyebrow, but to Bono his causes are not bound to any ideology save that of shared humanity and its corresponding requirement to address the needs of others.
Back to Elizabeth Emken. Her story, as told on her website:
For over a decade Elizabeth Emken has served as an advocate for developmentally disabled children, most recently as Vice President for Government Relations at Autism Speaks, the Nation’s largest science and advocacy organization devoted to the public health emergency of autism.
Before becoming active with the autism issue, Elizabeth served in management, financial analysis, and corporate operations at IBM. As an efficiency and cost cutting expert, Elizabeth utilized activity-based cost analyses to identify administrative savings across IBM U.S. – helping streamline operations, eliminate waste, and save the company millions of dollars.
Elizabeth graduated from UCLA in 1984 with degrees in Economics and Political Science. Her studies included course work at Cambridge University, where she focused on political and economic issues in China and the Middle East.
Elizabeth began helping families of children with autism, like her son Alex, more than a decade ago when she learned how little was being done to help individuals and families with disabilities. Elizabeth became a citizen-advocate, and as a Board Member, handled legislative advocacy for Cure Autism Now. She coordinated advocacy for the first major piece of federal legislation addressing autism, the Advancement in Pediatric Autism Research Act, ultimately becoming the lead title of the Children’s Health Act of 2000, which authorized programs totaling more than $200 million over 5 years at the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and Health and Resources and Services Administration.
A vital element of this accomplishment, Elizabeth led the charge to ensure transparency and accountability on how the NIH would spend autism research dollars. For the first time at the NIH, her efforts produced a portfolio analysis of autism spending that would have to withstand public scrutiny – a policy Elizabeth believes should apply throughout the entire government.
Elizabeth led autism community advocacy for the Combating Autism Act of 2006 on behalf of Cure Autism Now, Autism Speaks, and 17 other leading autism organizations. The Combating Autism Act of 2006, which passed in December, 2006, authorized nearly $1 billion over 5 years to combat autism through research, screening, early detection and early intervention.
Elizabeth joined Autism Speaks in March 2007 where she immediately launched a multi-state campaign to secure insurance coverage for autism-related services. Since then, 29 states have enacted autism insurance reform laws, saving participating states millions in taxpayer funds that would otherwise have been directed to state health care and special education services. This groundbreaking legislation, aimed at ending marketplace discrimination against individuals with autism, passed into law in California on October 9, 2011.
Elizabeth has worked extensively on behalf of military families, advocating for support totaling $24 million at the Department of Defense since 2007, and supporting health care coverage for autism related medical services in TRICARE, the health care program for active duty service members and retirees.
In 2008, Elizabeth secured, for the first time, placement of autism as a Presidential campaign issue with mentions at both party conventions and debates. This was followed by a first ever commitment for autism funding in a President’s full year budget proposal.
In the past few days, much has been made of a photo making the rounds showing Emken with President Barack Obama. The photo was taken in 2007 when she and other autism activists visited Washington to meet with members of Congress including Obama, who was at that time the junior senator from Illinois.
According to her opponents, the photo not only proves Emken to be someone who will consort with “the enemy,” but also one of the most eeeeevil kinds of people there are — special interest lobbyists. Because, you know, only a self-seeking, self-serving, socialist selfish pig would ask the government to devote research dollars to finding the cause or causes for, and from there more effective treatments of or perhaps a cure for, an emotional and mentally crippling condition presently estimated to affect one out of every eighty-eight children born in the United States. You know who will bear the brunt of paying for continued care for these kids throughout their lives, right? You saw him or her in the mirror this morning.
Sarcasm aside, just when did asking the government to put an effort into doing something that will benefit the public as a whole, and should its efforts be successful ultimately save the American taxpayer money, become a heinous crime? Whatever happened to the notion of honoring someone who gave up a very lucrative career to not only care for her son, but actively work toward raising awareness and the necessary funds for research? There’s no ideology here; no political party affiliation. There is a mother’s love for her son, and her work to bring hope to other mothers of autistic children that one day they will be freed from their emotional and mental hell.
When there is common ground, refusing to set foot on it because of belief doing so would taint your ideological purity is foolishness. It gives the other side the upper hand. Of course the government shouldn’t fund the unaffordable designed to perpetuate a lack of self-sufficiency by those seeking to skate through life. But when an investment that promises to both enhance the lives of many of its citizens along with offering future savings due to lowered publicly-borne health care costs is available, seize the opportunity. That’s what Elizabeth Emken has done. That’s what Bono does. And we are all the better for it.
P.S. As long as we’re talking U2: