American Association of People with Disabilities

“I owe everything I have accomplished to my epilepsy. Because of it, I found the drive to succeed. I thank God for my epilepsy.”

—Tony Coelho, former Congressman, 2000 campaign manager for Al Gore, and AAPD executive board member

“In 1967, A 22-Year old Tony Coelho—on the verg of joining the priesthood—walked into a doctor’s office for a check-up. He walked out a diagnosed epileptic. In a matter of days, the state took away his driver’s license. He lost his health insurance. The Catholic Church rejected him. And so did his family. What was to be a routine physical left the young man an emotional wreck. Depression took hold. He drank. He turned suicidal. His epilepsy, however, had one more unexpected consequence. ‘Epilepsy gave me the strength to turn my life around,’ he says. ‘It made me push harder, made me want to succeed even more.’ And he’s spent the rest of his life doing just that.”

— excerpt from a profile AAPD board member Tony Coelho

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    American Association of People with Disabilities

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    The AAPD wanted to tell the stories of its executive board members. And after reading my work with Jane Goodall and numerous colleges, they hired me on to interview some heavy hitters: Tony Coelho, Ted Kennedy Jr. and the wife of Jim Sensenbrenner. Out of the group, Tony Coelho gave the most compelling story. However, the guy who almost put Al Gore in the White House destroyed me at one of my go-to interview tricks: the pregnant pause. Normal people squirm when silence lingers too long. They start rambling, spilling their guts. Not Coelho. He lasted nearly a minute before I surrendered to my next question.

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