PAWTUCKET – Vision Strength Access (VSA) arts Rhode Island Executive and Artistic Director Jeannine L. Chartier will attend President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday, February 28th, as the guest of U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI).
“Like so many of my friends and colleagues, I have been shocked and frightened by how Donald Trump conducted himself as a candidate and how he has governed as President,” said Chartier. “As a woman with a disability, an artist and the director of an arts-education non-profit, I hope that my attendance will show the President that Americans like me will not just stay at home and let him undo all of the progress we have made in recent years. America is our country too, and we deserve a voice.”
Chartier, a survivor of childhood polio, grew up in a working class Pawtucket family. In 1986, she worked with the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts to found VSA arts Rhode Island, a statewide, nonprofit arts education organization providing programs by, with and for children and adults with disabilities to actively participate in the arts. Chartier has served as the Executive and Artistic Director of VSA arts Rhode Island for the past 21 years.
“I’m delighted that Jeannine will be joining me in Washington next week,” added Cicilline. “Under Jeannine’s leadership, VSA arts Rhode Island has become one of the leading advocates for individuals with disabilities. She has persevered in the face of incredible challenges. The story of her life is a reminder to all of us that individuals with disabilities are valuable members of our society.”
During his campaign for President, Trump was criticized for mocking Serge F. Kovaleski, an investigative reporter at The New York Times who has arthrogryposis. Despite clear video evidence, Trump has still refused to apologize or even acknowledge that he mocked Kovaleski’s physical disability. Over the past two years, Trump has also mocked U.S. soldiers who were captured as prisoners of war, the mother of a U.S. Army captain who lost his life while serving in Iraq, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and U.S. Congressman John Lewis. Over the same period of time, Trump has also repeatedly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
VSA arts Rhode Island is accredited by the international VSA, which was founded in 1974 by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith as an educational affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.