Valerie Jarrett: Tony Coelho Award Winner

In December of 2022, Bender Consulting Services, Inc. presented Valerie Jarrett with the Tony Coelho Award. Bender Leadership Academy was honored to be a part of the event, where several guests joined the #NotAshamed campaign, including Valerie.

Named for the Honorable Tony Coelho, author of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the award honors CEOs, Presidents, and politicians who have demonstrated a significant commitment to advancing employment equity for people with disabilities. Valerie Jarrett joins past winners such as David Holmberg, Steny Hoyer, and Richard Durbin.

Valerie June Jarrett is currently the Chief Executive Officer and a member of the board of directors for the Barack Obama Foundation, as well as a Senior Distinguished Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. Among other boards, she serves as the Board Chair of When We All Vote. Prior to this, Valerie served as the senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama while he was in office. In her role, she oversaw the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. Additionally, she chaired the White House Council on Women and Girls.

While serving President Barack Obama, Valerie became very interested in advancing employment equity for people with disabilities after visiting Pittsburgh for a fundraising campaign. She was a supporter of Executive Order 13548, which increased federal employment of people with disabilities. Executive Order 13548 led to the highest percentage of people with disabilities being employed by federal agencies in decades.

Valerie advocated to maintain Medicaid benefits for Americans with Disabilities alongside the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), Easter Seals, and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. She fought to give voice to the stories of Americans with Disabilities who would be impacted if these benefits were cut.

Valerie supported the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD was modeled after the ADA, extending rights for people with disabilities internationally. She joined Ambassador Rice at the United States’ signing of CRPD in 2009 and promoted ratification.

“With this signing, we once again confirm that disability rights are not just civil rights to be enforced here at home; they are universal human rights to be promoted around the world.” – Valerie Jarrett at the signing of the CRPD

Valerie continues to support employment equity and civil rights for people with disabilities. When war broke out in Ukraine, she urged people to support individuals with disabilities who were trapped due to inaccessible transportation and shelter refugees. She is also a supporter of technology accessibility and voting rights for people with disabilities.

Valerie’s enthusiasm and dedication to equity for all Americans, including those of us living with disabilities is one of the many reasons we are glad to see her honored with the Tony Coelho Award. We are also excited to have her connected to the Valerie Jarrett Community Engagement curriculum delivered by the Bender Leadership Academy. This curriculum focuses on teaching young people about citizenship and the importance of voting.