Opening Remarks

New this year: breakfast served on actual PLATES, at your seat, right where you’re going to listen to the speakers throughout the day! We’ve always had to go muddle through a buffet style continental spread, get the various plates and cups and utensils back to our tables, and then pick at it as fast as we can. So, I’m feeling mighty civilized.

Time to begin.

This is where they remind us why we’re all here and tell us what to expect … tall friend of mine in an open shirt, sports coat and blue jeans is at the podium.

My name is Matthew Roderick, I’m the executive director of U2FP. We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. (Matt’s one of those guys with a big, booming voice who isn’t afraid to use it, even when he’s talking into a mike.)  He’s telling us about changes in the program, etc. Then:

For those who don’t know about us and what we do, here’s a little flavor. This is written into your program, so you don’t need to take notes. I have a son with a spinal cord injury; in fact all of us at U2FP have a direct connection to this injury. What we’re trying to do is provide a better context for the science, but not just that. We’re including the whole big mess of finance, academia, science, and us — especially us, because it’s important to figure out how we fit in. What’s our strategy to get to treatments? Those two things together — context and strategy — lead to voice.

We’ve tried to infuse those 3 things into what we’re doing here. Context, Strategy, Voice

He’s talking about a Hulu show about going to Mars that begins with a beautiful, aspirational piece of music … he loves stories. Story is the way we live, but also the way we get manipulated. It gets us to buy stuff, to vote for people, to make sense of our world. So we need story, and this event is about all of our stories. We need to hear everybody’s story, which is what our table discussions are going to be about. Some of us are great at telling our stories, but some of us find it more challenging. The plan here is for everyone to find out and share how their story fits into the picture of Context, Strategy, Voice.

Matt thanks the sponsors (it’s a cheap conference because it’s subsidized) and introduces Bill Barrable from the Rick Hansen Institute, which is the principal sponsor of this year’s event.

Bill: “We love Americans! Especially Minnesotans, who share climate, geography, and values. Welcome!” 35years ago, Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion inspired the world and led to the joining of two organizations. We at RHI first came to this conference (U2FP) six years ago …since then we’ve been a sponsor every year since and see a tremendous value in what they do. Calls out Peter Wilderotter from Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, by way of saying that W2W is an important event and a major gathering of people all over the spectrum.

Matt’s back, walking around in front of the stage with his microphone. Says that someone asked him why we’re doing this in Canada … describes how some Canadians have been coming to the conference and introduces Barry Munro, who is here from Toronto. One of the things we do at U2FP is get funding through state legislation, and we just got a bill through the Pennsylvania legislature two days ago. This is money that goes directly to SCI research. One of the things Barry and his group have done is provide $$$ so that Matt can travel and support  those state initiatives.

Barry Munro wheels up to take the microphone.

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