[nfbwatlk] Successful Attorney Cyrus Habib Overcomes Blindness to Advocate for Others, The Woodinville Parch, April 10 2013

Nightingale, Noel Noel.Nightingale at ed.gov
Mon Apr 22 14:07:18 CDT 2013


Successful Attorney Cyrus Habib Overcomes Blindness to Advocate for Others
The Washington state representative shares how he is working to support services for the disabled, and public education for future generations. Sponsored by Grape-Nuts.

Cyrus Habib is a technology lawyer for the Seattle-based firm Perkins Coie, and state representative for Washington state's 48th district. A proud graduate of Bellevue, WA public schools, he won a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford and graduated from Yale Law School, where he served as editor of the law review. He plays the piano and enjoys traveling and spending time with his family. And he is also blind, having lost his sight to a rare form of childhood cancer at age eight.

Habib shares how he is working to preserve public education and support services for the disabled, the essential tools that helped him achieve success as he conquered the challenge of his loss of sight.

Q. What are you trying to achieve right now?

A. "As a member of the Washington State House of Representatives, I am working hard, along with my colleagues in the Legislature, to substantially improve our state's education system, from early learning through higher education. The Washington Supreme Court ruled last year that the state of Washington is failing to meet its paramount constitutional duty, to amply fund basic education, and we are now looking for as much as $1.5 billion to add to our education spending at the state level. All of this comes at a very difficult moment for the state financially, given spiraling health care costs, heightened social service caseloads caused by the slow economic recovery, and weakened consumer confidence leading to lowered sales and property tax revenue to the state. Our challenge, therefore, is how to do more with less in a political climate in which taxes are a hard sell politically."

Q. How do you plan to achieve the goal?

A. "I have begun my legislative career insisting that, even as we make critical enhancements in our education expenditures and ensure that our most vulnerable are not left out in the cold, we cannot ignore the pressing need to invest in economic development initiatives. If we do not grow the tax base and create a job environment that can flourish in this globally competitive landscape, we will continue to face budgetary challenges in education, social services, public safety, environmental protection, and other vital areas. We must look to the future, and invest in the economic clusters that will place Washington in the best possible position for future generations. I am passionate about the ability of state government to create opportunities for individuals and businesses because it has played such a critical role in my own life.

Having lost my eyesight to cancer as a child, I learned early the importance of hard work and creative solutions. My parents never allowed my disability to hold me back, and it was essential state services, such as the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind, the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, and the Washington State School for the Blind, that provided me the resources I needed to learn how to read, get around independently, and use adaptive computer software that reads what's on the screen. Above all, it was public schools that allowed me to go from braille to Yale. I know that the opportunities that government can provide, when complemented by hard work and resourcefulness, can lead to each individual living up to his or her full potential."

Q. What will do when you succeed?

A. "Even as I work hard on job growth, consumer protection, and education initiatives in the State Legislature, I am also focused on encouraging others to pursue public service, especially those whose communities might not yet be adequately represented in government. Individuals with disabilities, people of color, and women and LGBT individuals are underrepresented in elected office, and I believe that it is my responsibility, as someone who has been given this phenomenal opportunity to serve, to reach out and encourage others to consider doing the same."

About this column: We're dedicating the month of April and May to telling the stories of people locally and statewide who have overcome the impossible, affecting positive change in their own lives, or in communities. Sponsored by Grape-Nuts.

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