Best Seats in the House, Dayle McIntosh Activists Rewarded for Efforts

When you look it up in Websters, there must be a picture of Christie Rudder, Systems Change Advocate at the Dayle McIntosh Center, who had waged a non-stop email and phone campaign since last Friday to be able to see President Barack Obama at yesterday’s Town Hall meeting at the OC Fairgrounds. The Dayle McIntosh Center (DMC) offers resources and advocacy for differently-abled and senior clients who need help navigating a complicated system of services and assistance.

There is something to be said for perseverance.

Ring Side Seats
Ring Side Seats
Rudder bent the ear of everyone she knew, and many she didn’t, in her quest to get tickets for differently-abled activists in Orange County. When she got no for an answer, she simply sent out another email or made another phone call to someone else who might be able to help.

When two of her co-workers were shoved aside when they tried to wait in line like everyone else, her cause gained one very important supporter, CA Senator Lou Correa, who advocated on their behalf.

Senator Correa requested tickets for the two activists who had waited in line, and then made a phone call to the White House to explain the situation. At long last, Rudder’s efforts were going to pay off, but she was as yet unaware of her change of luck.

When asked about his efforts Correa explained, “It was only fair that all of my constituents were well represented. They deserved a chance to see our President,” adding, “Orange County is changing. It’s now home to so many people from every walk of life and many cultures. That’s why Barack Obama chose Orange County, he recognizes that in some ways, Orange County is like the Ellis Island of our time.“

First two tickets were made available for DMC Community Organizers, Erik St. Amant and Ken Schaap, the two equally determined supporters who had been shoved aside the morning before. I was lucky enough to be able to deliver the good news, “go pick up two tickets at noon.” I told them excitedly at 10:30 yesterday morning. I could hear the disbelief and joy on the other end of the line.

A short time later, Rudder got the confirming email that another four tickets were waiting for her and her co-workers.

Rudder called DMC’s Independent Living Coordinator, Cheryl Hopper, “I have tickets to go see President Obama, do you want to go?”

Hopper recounted the event, “Did I hear her right, she has what?”

The trip from Laguna Hills to Costa Mesa was a blur. The four lucky recipients (including Rudder, Hopper, Executive Director Delores Kollmer, and Candy McLeroy) met at Rudder’s house to car pool to the Fair Grounds to meet the President. Once at the Fair Grounds and out of the car, they were met by a young man who welcomed them and escorted them through the gates and up to security.

Hopper continued, “Since three of us are wheelchair users, we had our own short line and we were quickly through security. Once inside, we were taken to our seats which were up front and 20 feet from where the President was going to be speaking. The waiting crowd was large, and the air was crackling with excitement.

“It was fun to people-watch, wondering just how all of us got there and hearing stories of people waiting all night to get a ticket to see the President. The sound of a helicopter filled the air and chills ran up my spine knowing that in a few moments I was going to be 20 feet from the President of the United States.”

“Then there he was, coming into the room and I was speechless, star struck. I felt so honored to be right there in the front row hearing the President speak and although there are many challenges that the county is facing it was impossible not to feel hopeful. He is the people’s President and I felt that he spoke to each and everyone of us.

“My hands hurt from clapping so hard and my face aches a little from smiling so much! What an amazing day, and yes I reached out and touched the President of the United States.”

Erik St. Amant, one of the two Dayle McIntosh staffers who had been ignored in the long lines, was still flying high when I talked to him this afternoon, “I was invited to President Barack Obama’s townhall meeting at the Orange County Fairgrounds by Senator Lou Correa. This was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life, not just because I was able to see the President, but how I was treated, and how the disabled were treated.”

“Upon my arrival I was escorted to the front of line by ADA security, after which I was checked and escorted to the building where the meeting was to be held. I was seated 15 feet away from the podium where the President would later speak. I was treated with such courtesy by all involved. I also took a picture with Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, shook hands with State Controller John Chiang, and thanked Senator Correa for this great opportunity.”

“At approximately 3:30p.m. President Obama entered the room greeting all who surrounded the stage with handshakes and acknowledgement. He proceeded to the stage and spoke for 15 to 20 minutes about AIG and other issues, and afterwards opened the floor to the audience, taking questions.”

“He is one of the most charismatic figures I’ve ever come across. He’s a straight shooter, accountable, and gives thought provoking answers to all questions he faced, and delivers with a confidence like no other. After the open session with the consumers directly affected by these difficult times he again circled the stage greeting others with a handshake and a smile.”

“I left the townhall meeting with an ear-to-ear grin, and a buzz that I still am affected by 24 hours later. I have never been treated with such respect at a gathering of any nature like I was treated there. Finally, the (ADA) was implemented and shown that it does work when used properly.”

“It’s refreshing to be treated with equality and to be fully integrated in the community. This event was the blueprint of how people with disabilities should be treated at all times.” St. Amant concluded>.

As for Christie Rudder, the intrepid activist who wouldn’t let “No” stop her?

When I talked to her today, she said she was so happy that for the first time she felt like she was treated like an equal. She said she was still grinning and excited about her experience. She and her fellow DMC workers are planning a special thank you for Senator Correa. They all say that they are so grateful that their Senator heard them and fought for their right to participate in the historic event.

“What an amazing day. What an amazing thing to be that close and to feel so special. I will never forget it.” Rudder sighed happily.

Front Row: DMC Independent Staffers Cheryl Hopper, Christie Rudder, Erik St. Amant, and Candy McElroy. Back Row: DMC Executive Director Delores Kollmer, Misha Houser (LIBOC), and Ken Schaap
Front Row: DMC Independent Staffers Cheryl Hopper, Christie Rudder, Erik St. Amant, and Candy McElroy. Back Row: DMC Executive Director Delores Kollmer, Misha Houser (LIBOC), and Ken Schaap


  1. Great article! Finaly people with disabilities were represented at a meeting of such importance. The disabled community has a voice and needs to be seen as well as be heard. Big props goes to Senator Lou Correa for stepping up and recognizing that the disabled are people too. He could have given those tickets to anyone but he chose to give them to advocates who not only represent the disabled in Orange County, but the community as a whole.

  2. I am the other group organizer mentioned in Cristie Rudder’s article. As you know the experience started out to be really frustrating and we decided it was not ment to be to be at the town hall meeting with the President. SDo when we were able to get the tickets from Senator Correa It was a dream come true.From the time we hit the parking lot, the great experiance started. The atitude from the day before was spectacular. People started to help erik and I imediatley. I am Blind and Erik is in a chair. We usually just stagger along hopping that I don’t dump Erik on an unforseen dip or pot hole. We were given help as soon as we got out of Erik’s truck. Two people helped us to a point and the we we passed on to two other people who took us through security and the next thing you know we are right in thre front row. The people around us we so kind and the excitment grew as we waited. The momet arived and President Obama was there. His presence was awsome. His speech even better and no one in that audience could be nothing but proud to be an American. It was really one of the most awsome experiances in my life. Thank you Mr. President. Thank you all the people who believe in the ADA Amentment Act and allowing people with disabilities to feel apart of the HOPE FOR CHANGE and do it with dignity.
    Ken Schaap
    Grpou Organizer
    Dayle McIntosh Center


  3. And congratulations to our articulate president who has the courage to point out that retards aren’t that good at playing sports – they’re funny to watch throwing a ball.

    The it appears that the most retarded comment our leader said at the rally was “we didn’t write the bonuses” for AIG. No, but the white house approved them and make sure they were in the bail out. Outrage outrage at those greedy businessmen and all the Republicans who took contributions from AIG!!!

  4. Congratulations! What a once in a lifetime event. I’m proud to be an American again, thanks to President Obama. He will lead this country through this mess that was handed to him by our previous administration. I have hope that all Americans will be treated equal from this day forward, even though there is still ignorance and hate in our mists.

    It’s time to do the right thing. It is the responsibility of our government, large corporations and for each individual. From this day forward….I pray….

  5. #3 — your comment about “retards” isn’t funny. It’s moronic, mean and spiteful. If you take delight and humor in watching developmentally disabled people throw a ball, you’re a sad individual.

    And for the record, the Obama administration approved only the last payment to AIG of $30 nillion; the remainder $100+ billion were checks issued by the Bush admninistration with little or no restrictions on how those funds could be spent.

  6. All people, no matter what their ablement, should have equal access in all matters. We are all in this life together and should treat one another with love and respect, helping one another when called upon. It is satisfying that the disrespect against two of Dayle McIntosh’s staffers of the prior day was corrected and that the team was able to have equal access to President Obama’s forum the next day. Kudos to Christie, Ken and the team!

  7. “take delight and humor in watching developmentally disabled”

    No that wasn’t me, That was the Messiah making fun of the disabled that was widely condemed by liberals in the media like yourself.

    Did the Obama administration know about the bonuses for AIG?

  8. #8: You’re off topic. Your moniker is in poor taste and you’re making more of a fool of yourself than making your point.

  9. There Misha– now this moniker won’t be so upsetting.

    How many people are hurt when Obama made his joke?

    Maybe you can tell me WHEN the Obama administration knew about the AIG bonuses?

    On topic – the disabled and Obama’s comments at the rally about AIG

  10. This event is a true testimont and indication of a changing society. Although people with disabilites have a long road of challenges ahead, it only takes one step at a time to effect a nation. I applaud the efforts of the Dayle McIntosh Activists and our President for acknowledging all people.

  11. Far too often society does not recognize individuals who have disabilities. Society needs to be aware that individuals with disabilities are more dependent and reliable in the workforce and contribute taxes like everyone else who is employed.

    Last year when the person who used a wheelchair was in the Sheriff’s office and they threw him out of his wheelchair onto the floor and laughed at him, the story received very little coverage. However, if it had been someone who was from another ethnic population, there would have been outrage. Why is it that the majority of the population is not aware of how much persons with disabilities contribute to this society? We deserve to be equal in every aspect of the world. When we cut ourselves, all of our blood is still red!

    Ann McClellan, Dayle McIntosh Center

  12. #10: You crack me up. You’re going to use an unintended bad joke as your big slam? Oooh.
    It’s no comparison with the thousands of gaffs and incoherent speeches by his predecessor. “OBGYN’s spreading their love,” comes to mind…
    As to the crowd’s reaction to Obama’s comments about AIG, perhaps you should read the transcripts or find the video. Obama covered that in his opening remarks to great applause.

    Again, you crack me up. Are you saying that you want to control what companies do? Did you clear that with Limbaugh?
    Either you agree the government should be able to regulate, set limits, and set controls on the economy OR you believe in laissez faire capitalism and let the market have its way (even when they send the world to the brink of financial ruin). You can’t have it both ways.

  13. Kudos to the DMC staff and for Sen. Correa in fighting for equality and the American way. Another staff member of DMC had requested that I drive her to see the President. Unfortunantly she was not one of the lucky ones who were granted passes. You see, this individual, who suffers from CP and quadraplegia has a Master’s degree–even though she cannot write her own name. She is a tireless advocate for persons with disabilites and felt sad that she was unable to see HER president. That being said, there were many TABs (Temporarily Able Bodied) persons who were not able to recieve tickets also. The great thing about the Dayle McIntosh Center is that they work so many miracles with a shoestring budget–one that has been cut several years in a row, for able bodied public servants would rather fund programs for those who can walk up to them not need or require a ramp, or accomodations because the TAB population is beleived (incorrectly) to have more voting power.
    I am so proud of all Independent Living Centers in their fight to help persons with disabilities live an independnet life, with a few accomodations. Dayle McIntosh Center is one of the best in the nation.
    Off topic, this individual who wanted to go and see HER President spends her entire salary from DMC on Personal Care Assistants–so hat she can type her reports, go to the toilet, get a drink of water, eat lunch, etc. This position of Supervisor, like all positions at DMC is more an act of love and gratitude to help those less fortunate then themselves, because DMC is so very underfunded. If any one can assist DMC in providing livable wages for their employees, please consider doing so.
    Thank you President Obama, Sen. Correa, and all the others who took great care of my friends at DMC. What you did in allowing them to see the President will fuel their passion for a long time!
    Rev. Dr. Jeanne Munsell

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