I had a dream. A dream that I’d have a great job, marry a wonderful woman, buy a nice house, get a dog, have a lovely family, and so on. Nothing extravagant. Probably the same dream many people have. The American dream.
It Was the Best of Times
Seventeen years ago, I started living the dream. I took a job as a consultant at SAP Ariba and started traveling the country, moving from one Fortune 100 customer to the next, from east coast to west coast, north to south, big city to small town. Most of SAP Ariba’s customers knew my name or had met me.
Within a year I married my girlfriend Lisa, we bought a small house in Griggstown NJ, we got our first dog, and before long, welcomed our son Harrison into the world; he was the joy of our lives. I’ll never forget the ‘compliment’ we received from a family member who said, “Harrison is such a handsome young man. He doesn’t look anything like either of you.” Time went fast and it didn’t take long before he was walking and talking.
It Was the Worst of Times
When Harrison turned 2, something changed. He stopped responding to his name and lost almost all of his words. We scrambled to doctors and soon received a diagnosis of autism; diagnoses of multiple immune disorders followed. Not knowing what the future held made those early days and months the scariest of our lives. We went through a short grieving period but then awoke with a fervor to help our son any way possible, and be his biggest advocates.
I didn’t dream much after that. It’s hard to dream when your mind is filled with the day-to-day tasks associated with having a special needs child – doctor visits, therapy sessions, the search for scientific research to find the best treatments, dealing with the challenges of an autism diagnosis, the sleepless nights/years, the endless effort of trying to teach your child how to say a single sound, the helplessness when your child is crying but can’t communicate to tell you why. And the looks. The looks from people in the community who couldn’t be bothered by someone who is different, but even more, from friends and family who never wanted to try to understand.
Marc takes us on a whirlwind tour of how he and his wife Lisa helped improve people’s lives. The story begins with Lisa teaching college and Marc traveling the country as a consultant. Everything changes when their son Harrison is diagnosed with autism. Watch how their role as child-safety advocates takes them all the way to the White House.
It Was the Epoch of Belief
Fortunately for us, SAP Ariba cared. The people I worked with every day, cared. They understood.
They helped me find a position which required no travel so I could be home for all the important responsibilities. They understood there are good weeks and bad weeks, and helped me survive the bad ones. They allowed me to work extremely flexible work hours so I could still be productive at work and equally productive at home. They lent a hand when I most needed it, and provided a shoulder on more than one occasion. They were there the day Harrison got diagnosed.
It was the Epoch of Incredulity
They were there in our thoughts, along with all the others who supported us over the years, on June 22, 2016 when we were invited to the White House to personally meet President Obama and witness the signing of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.
It is humbling to receive an invitation from the White House to witness the President of the United States sign a monumental piece of legislation that will improve the lives of all Americans by ensuring the chemicals we use every day are safe. Even more so when you and your family get to shake the President’s hand and hear the nice things he has to say about your family.
But nothing can surpass knowing that your incredible wife was instrumental in making this day a reality through her advocacy work. Despite unselfishly sacrificing her PhD research in environmental exposure to become a full time caretaker of our medically fragile son, she testified more than five years ago at a Senate field hearing hosted by Senator Frank Lautenberg on toxic chemicals and children’s health and pleaded that, as a nation, we need to “stop field testing chemicals on our most vulnerable population: children. If I, a person well-educated in the field of human exposure to chemicals cannot be confident that I am keeping my family safe, then neither can the average person.”
Her intimate message provided a compelling story and motivation for Congress to keep working at a bipartisan bill that would improve the lives of all Americans. It never occurred to us how instrumental her testimony was until she received a call giving her the honor of introducing the President at this historic event.
After her comments, the President remarked, “Let me thank Lisa for a wonderful introduction. And her wonderful family is here. I just want you to know that advocates like you, who fight every day, to make this country a little bit better are why we are here day. And we are very proud of you.”