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President Adamkus says thank-you to all who work hard to protect the rights of disabled persons, bringing change to our society and upholding the core values of our life

Wednesday, June 3, Vilnius - President Valdas Adamkus attended the opening of the 21st Annual Meeting of the European Academy of Childhood Disability "From Myth to Evidence", held under his patronage.

President Adamkus welcomed the organizers and participants of the Conference in Lithuania, celebrating the millennium of the first mention of its name, and underlined that this was the best time to reflect on our achievements and learn from our mistakes.


One of such mistakes, Valdas Adamkus said, was the public's attitude to disabled people, which had prevailed for half a century in Lithuania, determining their place in society or, to be more precise, their marginalization and social exclusion.


"It has been long recognized that social culture, family culture and health care culture are integral links in the long chain of common culture, reflecting the actual progress of society and its true moral face. In all times the national and social maturity of a state has been best revealed by its treatment of the most vulnerable groups, especially the disabled who need extra care and attention," Mr. Adamkus said.


He expressed deep regret that the fifty year long totalitarian occupation regime was resolved to destroy, systematically and without hesitation, our values and traditions cherished for centuries and to change our approach to individual people, their health and place in society. Parents were cynically advised to give up their disabled children because they were, allegedly, of no use to society and therefore their lives were worthless.


"Disability in children was perceived as punishment for the things done wrong by their parents, which brought shame on the family - something that is now seen as an appalling act of emotional violence," Mr. Adamkus said.


Valdas Adamkus pointed out that twenty years ago, when Lithuania regained independence, it immediately stood in defense of the disabled and their families, launching many social integration projects. Parents who fought for the right of their disabled children to live full, decent and dignified lives contributed to the development of democracy in Lithuania. They made state institutions re-tailor their approach to the individual person and they made society re-shape its moral principles.


He underscored that the introduction of these rights in public life had benefited not only the disabled, but the entire society at large which discovered the values of humanism and made them real through spiritual growth and healing work - not manipulating statements.


President Adamkus thanked those parents who worked hard and patiently to protect their children and the Lithuanian welfare society "Viltis" for its every-day fight in defense of the rights of the disabled - which had brought change to our society, upholding the core values of our life.


He further noted that systemic changes and achievements were still attained by private initiative and endurance, pointing out that we needed further change, further progress and further common effort.


"It is not enough to just speak about the return of disabled people to daily life and society. We have to develop a research-based system of full integration of disabled children so that their parents do not have to argue, over and over again, for the rights of their children in governmental offices," Mr. Adamkus said.


He accentuated that we must build an accessible, safe and creative environment for disabled children, which would be conducive to their self-expression, adding that this was also about parents and their chance to live a normal life without betraying and excluding their children.


"I am well aware of the long and difficult work that we must all do and the pain, challenges, disillusionment, and discoveries that await us. Let us learn patience and fortitude from those who have been long on this road without losing hope and faith in the future. I wish the same strength and commitment to all the people of Lithuania," Mr. Adamkus said.

Press Service of the President


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