We all have experiences that take us, break us and force us to remake ourselves. This happened to Chris Haulmark when his father prematurely passed at 54 leaving him devastated and questioning everything in life.
Soon, Chris realized he had to walk a different path. At the urging of his children, he left his position as IT Manager for a government of Arkansas to solo-travel across the world. Solo travel is impressive for anybody, so it’s remarkable for somebody who has been Deaf since he was one year old.
In the past, Chris Haulmark allowed his Deafness and disability to define and isolate him. No more! Chris traveled, Chris saw and Chris video-blogged about the world then. The video blogs started off with an audience of two: his 9-year-old daughter and his 12-year-old son. From there, the viewer audience expanded to 20,000, as they, particularly those of the Deaf community, became immersed and inspired by Chris’s messages.
As Chris traveled the world and connected with Deaf communities in dozens of countries, he realized he’d found his calling: public office. When November 2016 elections rolled around, he country was shocked, taken, broken, and many were left wondering if it could remake itself.
As the reality of our current status quo sunk in, it became clear that some Kansans were worse off than others. This is particularly true for Americans with disabilities. Why? Because the new government promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that had expanded Medicaid insurance for Kansans with disability.
The ACA repeal promised to remove the protection from all pre-existing condition exclusions. As being Deaf is such a pre-existing condition, removing these protections would devastate not only Kansas’s Deaf communities, but all of America.
Chris Haulmark could not accept that destructive consequence of an ACA repeal. He struck out on the next journey, a third path: to serve his country by being the elected voice for Kansas’s 3rd Congressional district. Crises offer opportunities. During a crisis is when people seek and work towards solutions. They reconsider and often change long-held beliefs, such as the ones our country holds about Deaf people.
2018 is the best chance in our lifetimes for the Kansas Deaf community and their hearing counterparts to elect their own Deaf and disabled Congressperson.
A disability can be turned into an advantage when running for office. We, the people, do love feel-good humane stories about people overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. A Deaf person with community support can gain momentum to win a seat in Congress as the voice of the unheard would be an incredibly powerful humane story. The national press would delight in the obstacles overcome and barriers breached. And we saw in the 2016 election, the free air time given to such humane success stories is powerful.
As Chris Haulmark reaches the level of speech in Congress, the flood-gates for the Deaf community and Kansas 3rd district voices will open. More fellow Deaf and disabled constituents will try running for office in Kansas and across America. More will succeed.
America now stands at a crossroad.
Will America become a country where people are considered less for what marks their minds or their bodies? Or will we make sure that a person’s color, beliefs or disability does not say who they are or how they should be treated?
For Chris Haulmark, the answer is clear. When his father died in 2009, Chris decided he would not, could not let his disability limit his limitations in our society. Rather, his Deaf and disability will propel him forward. In 2018, with your help, Chris Haulmark will go to Congress and lead America in recognizing and rebuilding a society to define their disabilities not as a barrier, but as an opportunity to be proud contributing people, too.
All we have to do is believe.
Chris Haulmark for Congress, 2018.