Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks

Representing the 5th District of Indiana
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Brooks Announces Jay Ruckelshaus as 2016 State of the Union Guest

Jan 11, 2016
News Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks (R-IN05) is pleased to announce that her guest for the State of the Union address on January 12, 2016, will be Jay Ruckelshaus. Ruckelshaus, a senior at Duke University and the 2011 Cathedral High School valedictorian, was recently awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Mike Pence and the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship; has earned the Harry S. Truman Scholarship and the Angier B. Duke Scholarship; and is the founder and president of the Ramp Less Traveled, a nonprofit organization helping others with spinal cord injuries pursue higher education. In 2011, following his graduation from Cathedral, he sustained a severe spinal cord injury.

“I’m honored that Jay will be joining me at the State of the Union address this year,” Brooks said. “He is a passionate advocate for the disability community, a leader and mentor for other students with spinal cord injuries who want to attend college, and a bright young mind focused on political science. At a time when our country is facing a number of challenges, Jay serves as an inspiration to me. His commitment to leadership, civic engagement, excellence and achievement are outstanding examples of all that can be accomplished in the face of adversity.”

Ruckelshaus is pursuing a degree in political science at Duke University with triple minors in philosophy, history and English. At Oxford University in England, he plans to pursue a Master’s of Philosophy degree in political theory.

“I’m incredibly excited to attend the State of the Union address, and so grateful that Congresswoman Brooks thought to invite me,” said Ruckelshaus. “This has long been a bucket list item of mine. I’m going to take full advantage of this chance to see so many public officials up close and to witness one of the touchstones of our democracy as I continue to contemplate my own path in public service.”

“I'm most interested in broadening the purview of disability advocacy beyond just legal mechanisms for change,” Ruckelshaus continued. “As crucial and wonderful as laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act have been for people with disabilities, I've found in my work that there's a real need for more flexible and progressive models. That's a job that requires the work of government, civil society and private citizens.”

Ruckelshaus planned and led the inaugural Beyond Disability, Beyond Compliance National Retreat, a national conference on higher education and disability. He is a volunteer peer supporter for newly injured spinal cord patients, chair and director of Outreach of Accessibility Matters, and advisory board member of the Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Atlanta.