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Remembering one of ABLE’s Biggest Advocates, Steve Beck

Almost nine years ago, a group of people entered my office for the first of what would be countless meetings on the problems and potential solutions faced by families who have children with disabilities.  We talked for hours about the inequity of the situation, the concerns of long term financial security, and I saw the passion and dedication of this group of people.  And while I did not know it at the time, they would all become my friends.

Beck Family

The Beck family during the ABLE Act Debate in the House, December 3, 2014

Chief among this group was a man named Steve Beck.  I got the sense that Steve was new to this lobbying/advocacy role he was about to embark upon.  But he was a natural because he was lobbying on behalf of something he was passionate about, his family and particularly his daughter Natalie.  Steve and I grew close as we pushed for the creation of what would ultimately become the ABLE Act.

I became reliant on Steve’s straightforward and candid input on ABLE.  He would become a trusted and valued liaison to me and Congressman Crenshaw’s office over the course of the last nine years. The two of us would present together at national conferences on ABLE.  And we even began running into one another on a regular basis after we learned we both lived in the same area of northern Virginia.  Most recently, last weekend at our families’ favorite local hangout, Spartan’s Restaurant.

Steve attended my retirement party when I left Congressman Crenshaw’s office last December and I remember him stating that he rarely “liked coming into DC at this hour, but he couldn’t miss my celebration.”

I high-fived and shared a toast with Steve in the Chairman of the Rules Committee’s private office off the floor of the House Chamber just a few days ago when we both watched with excitement as the ABLE Act passed the House.

Little did I know that that toast together would be the last time I would see this man who became my friend over the last nine years.  Steve was one of the many driving forces behind the ABLE Act and there is a hole tonight in our ABLE family as a result of his death.

His warm smile, friendly handshake, compassion, and love for his family and the ABLE cause will be deeply missed. My prayers go out to Catherine and the entire Beck family for their loss, but I hope they know that Steve touched so many lives in such a positive way.  The hesitant advocate who entered my office nine years ago leaves behind his wonderful family and a legacy in the ABLE Act that will help countless families around the United States.

I hope that in some small way, knowing that provides some comfort to those missing Steve Beck tonight. Thank you Steve for your energy, commitment and most of all your friendship.

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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in ABLE Act, Life

 
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Thoughts from Jordan – A Few Parting Thoughts

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I cannot begin to adequately describe in any way that does it justice, the things, people, and experiences I have been privileged to witness this week. This is a fascinating country. Generally, westerners have misconceptions about the Middle East. Americans especially tend to think of places in this part of the world, as menacing places, but nothing is further from the truth when it comes to this country.

Jordan’s people are friendly and open. Many speak or understand English. The nation’s capital, Amman, is a city filled with neighborhoods, shopping districts, restaurants and people. It only takes five hours to drive from Jordan’s northern borders to its southern-most city.

Jordan has its share of incredibly difficult issues to overcome. It is the 4th poorest water resource country in the world. It has a population of 6 million, and Palestinian refugees add 2 million to that number, while the crisis in Syria has resulted in 500,000 new refugees and the prediction that as many as 500,000 more will follow by the end of the year. Unemployment is high. There are 13 Palestinian refugee camps here, some since 1949. There are three Syrian refugee camps in Jordan that house some of the 500,000 plus Syrian refugees.

Jordan, unlike its neighbors, has no natural resources to speak of. They import most of their energy needs and food. Their geographic boundaries place them in one of the toughest neighborhoods on earth. They are bordered on the east by Israel, Syria on the north, Egypt in the south, and Iraq and Saudi Arabia to the west.

It has weathered the Arab Spring. It is resolved to change in light of those protests all around the region. They have embraced some democratic reforms and while their democracy doesn’t look like ours, they are embarking upon their own grand experiment.

It’s not immune from terrorism. The 2005 Amman bombings enraged its citizenry who call that day, Jordan’s 9-11. The bombings were a series of coordinated bomb attacks on three hotels in Amman, Jordan, on 9 November 2005. The attacks killed 60 people and injured 115 others. The explosions—at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the Radisson SAS Hotel, and the Days Inn—started at around 20:50 at the Grand Hyatt. The three hotels are often frequented by foreign diplomats.

Despite their challenges, their difficult economy and the regional challenges they face, the Jordanians are some of the most gracious people in the world. They have given more than any one country should be expected to with respect to the helping with the Syrian crisis. The demands on infrastructure, a weak job market, and utilities, especially water, by the addition of 1,000,000 people in a short period of time – or nearly 20% of your country’s population – are staggering.

The people of Jordan seem patient for now. But continued stresses on everyday Jordanians by the country’s generosity cannot and should not be taken for granted. This situation is just not sustainable. The regional impacts of unrest in this stable and reliable ally cannot be understated.

The people here always smile. They go out of their way to say hello. Jordan’s strength is her people and their resolve. The next few years will be critical for this small nation. Jordan is the keystone in any process that impacts Syria, peace in the Middle East, or relationships with the Arab world. She is an ally in a region where the United States has few friends. We must continue to support and encourage our friends in Jordan for they might be the last best chance the world has in this part of the world.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2013 in Travel

 

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