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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 04/30/2012

Mom Congress convenes in D.C.: What do you call an activist who happens to be a mother?

This past weekend, two Post stories told of parents who faced unexpected, individual struggles and fought them in a way that led to universal solutions.


Alex Arriaga plays with her son. (Dayna Smith - FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Once Alex Arriaga discovered how ill-prepared her local Virginia schools were to educate her son and other autistic kids like him, she launched an effort to find funding to better train teachers. The former White House and congressional aide worked with other parents to successfully lobby Rep. James P. Moran Jr.

Now, Moran has proposed the The Autism Educators Act, a grant program that would finance training on how to most effectively work with autistic children.

The other story has harder edges.

Janet Manion’s life changed in 2007. She was hosting a backyard barbecue at her Pennsylvania home when she heard a knock on the door.

“Mrs. Manion answered the door and encountered a Marine in a crisp olive uniform. She immediately slammed the door in his face, shutting it so hard that she broke its lower hinge. She began screaming.

“She was informed that her son, a 2004 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, had been killed by sniper fire during an ambush outside Fallujah, Iraq,” says her obituary. (Manion died at 58 from cancer complications, according to her family. )

Manion went on to endure that grief and do much more. She founded the Travis Manion Foundation, a veterans assistance program that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for scholarships for wounded veterans, and grief and bereavement services for families of veterans.

Can you imagine having that strength?

It so happens that a group of women from around the country are in D.C. right now because they, too, have turned their family experiences into broader advocacy.

The group is part of “Mom Congress,” a Parenting Magazine effort to bring together parents from all 50 states and the District for a few days of networking and advocacy training.

These “delegates” were chosen by the magazine because they have worked locally to elevate education and confront issues such as bullying and special-needs care in this country. These are concerns that transcend the conference title (an unfortunate one if you ask me).

Yes, they all happen to be mothers and many of them identify themselves as such at the outset of any official biographies. What really unites them, though, is that they are activists.

They have faced a challenge, be it a school lacking in resources or an unsafe neighborhood or a community not equipped to help their child, and found the resolve to not only wage a fight, but to do so on behalf of others.

I can’t imagine adding another thing to do to my wholly personal daily list, but these women have added a slew of them. They volunteer in classrooms and committees; they lobby; they agitate.

I’ll meet with some of the delegates later today during their conference. The first question I’ll have for them: How have you found the time, the energy?

The second: How do we lose the first part of this conference title and get you in the actual Congress?

Has a family challenge spurred you to community action? If so, tell me.

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By  |  07:00 AM ET, 04/30/2012

Tags:  Education, Politics, Special Needs

 
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