The Making of the ADA – Week Four

Memories from the 10th Anniversary

The Disability Rights Leadership Series

Week Four:
Carolyn Osolinik, Richard Thornburgh and Marilyn Golden

Marilyn Golden

“The philosophy has been…that when you can’t get the position that you want, get that position with a delay rather than weakening. Weaken the when, not the what.”


Richard Thornburgh

“…the role that I played…was to draw down on whatever capital I had as a parent, as a longtime advocate, as one who had been committed to disability rights and yet was a Republican and a loyal member of the Bush administration to try to get people to sit down and discuss their differences and come up with reasonable solutions.”


Carolyn Osolinik

“…as I got into the ADA it became so clear that these were people and lots of them, who had been wrongly excluded from every facet of American life and that there was a real attitude adjustment that was needed. I think that is probably the most important thing about the ADA…”

DREDF is pleased to present the next in our series of historic ADA interviews recorded in 1999 and 2000. This week, we feature interviews with Carolyn Osolinik, former chief counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Richard Thornburgh, U.S. Attorney General during the George H. W. Bush Administration, and Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst with DREDF.

As the country celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) this year, we pause for a moment to take stock of the impact the ADA has had on our lives and our communities over the past quarter century and to recognize both the sung and the unsung heroes who worked tirelessly to make the dream of full civil rights for people with disabilities a legal reality. 

In an effort to capture the day–to–day memories of some of those who witnessed and influenced this extraordinary historic event, the University of San Francisco and the video production company, Access Video, collaborated with DREDF during 1999 and 2000 to interview some of the people who were central to the law’s passage.

Just as no one person, group, or organization can represent the vast diversity that comprises “people with disabilities,” this project could not adequately credit everyone who worked to make the vision of the ADA a reality. The voices preserved in this small collection are few in number. They are the voices of those who were privileged to be in power, or who had access to those in power. We want to share them because they bear witness to how our communities’ landmark civil rights law was fought for in our nation’s capital, in rooms that were reached by literal — not figurative — “halls of power.”

There were, and are, many other stories about people and moments in time that we need to preserve if we are to have a more complete history of the disability civil rights movement, and a deeper understanding of our present and future. As the 15–year gap between filming and release attests, we’re fortunate that technology and social media have made story–telling infinitely more accessible and diverse.

Copies of the unedited interview collection reside in the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement (DRILM) collection at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, as well as with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF).

We wish to extend our deep appreciation to the volunteers who donated their time to edit and caption this archival material.