THANK YOU, MR. KEEN
If you’re over the age of (you-fill-in-the-blank), lived in Edmonton in the 1970’s, had your transistor radio tuned — or, perhaps, locked on 630 CHED, you probably remember these two words. “I’m Eddie Keen.” I remember the first time I heard those words. It was 1972, just after 8 a.m., when I was waiting for the school bus to take me another day of fun and games — and some core educational values, of course — in Mr. Flesher’s Grade 7 class. I recall his debut, that morning, and what caught me more than anything, honestly, was he said “Damn” on the radio. How daring was that? Eddie was introduced as a former Edmonton Journal reporter who was hired by CHED to write and voice editorials. Two a day — remember? Eddie’s morning editorial ran and 7 and 8 a.m., and the afternoon edition aired at 12:30 and 5:30 p.m. Eddie turned me on to writing, and the news business — but, most importantly, trying to help people. Eddie was a voice for people who he thought were not being treated fairly. Landlords. Car dealerships who turned back speedometres. People he thought needed a voice — not necessarly a strong or sturdy voice. Just a voice. So, as a pimpled-face teenager who really didn’t have a grasp of reality, I made a vow: I wanted to be just like Eddie Keen. Oh, sure: there were just a few obstacles. I have cerebral palsy, use a wheelchair to get around, and a voice that can be hard to understand. Reading editorials on the radio? Not even in my wildest dreams. But … maybe, I could write and produce radio commentaries. So, off to NAIT I went to take Radio and Television Arts, which made very interesting conversations at during lunch when new friends asked what technology I was in. To make a long story make fit in the allotted space I have here, I couldn’t find work in broadcasting. A door opened in newspaper, and next month, I’ll hoist one — and, of course, with a straw — to 39 years writing columns. And, I believe my best work, perhaps, is ahead of me. I started my career writing about people with disabilities: their stories, their issues and their concerns. Over the next years, for whatever reason, I moved away from that mantra. It’s time to return to my roots. Because, I think, people with disabilities have stories to tell, issues to dispute, and a fundamental right to participate, and to reach their full potential. Whatever that might be. So: I’m inviting you, if you have a disability or know of someone with a disability who has a story to share, I want to know it. For whatever reason — and, I don’t know why — people with disabilities have become mysteriously silent. But, the stories and issues haven’t. I invite you to share your concerns with me. Email is the best way of communication and mine email@example.com. Please. Use it. I will never, ever be just like Eddie Keen. That would be, frankly, an insult. But I’ll try to carry on his epic storytelling … damn right.