As we move into the months of summer, it seems a good time to pause and reflect on our history. This means both doing the challenging introspection of examining some truths that we have not closely examined, particularly around issues of justice and equity, and also remembering moments of beauty and courage.
Our prayer service this last Sunday (July 5th) was one such opportunity, especially in the video recording of our own Mary Ann Ziegler’s performance of the Star Spangled Banner. In the moment, we may not have fully appreciated what we saw and heard, so along with Bernadette, I wanted to lift up that story.
Bernadette shared that during the service, she “thought of Martha Ziegler’s political advocacy for her daughter and, consequently, the positive effects and legacy she left for ALL children with disabilities in this nation, with her personal choice to ACT and to lobby for laws to help all such children for the future.”
And looking back to our archives, she shared the following, which provides greater detail on the whole story:
From Redeeming Features, Spring 2015
Redeemer Choir’s Mary Ann Ziegler sings at the State House!
by Bernadette Colley and Evelyn Hauslein
Kudos and Congratulations from the Adult Choir and all of us at Redeemer to soprano Mary Ann Ziegler who was selected as soloist to sing the National Anthem at the State House on March 9, 2015. The occasion was the 37th Annual Legislative Reception, entitled “Promises to keep … Miles to Go” sponsored by The Arc of Massachusetts (http://thearcofmass.org/ ), and the Massachusetts Development Disability Commission.
More than 300 people were in attendance, including Governor Baker, Speaker Deleo, honorees Representative John Keenan and Representative Sean Garballey. After a brief biographical introduction, Mary Ann opened the ceremony with her a cappella rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, without having once practiced in The Great Hall, and without warm up. In attendance with Mary Ann were her voice teacher Robert Gartside who coached her in preparation, family friend Ruth Tringo, and Evelyn Hauslein. Governor Baker who heard Mary Ann’s performance, in particular, “thanked her for her marvelous job.” The introductory remarks which preceded Mary Ann’s performance are noteworthy for those in the Redeemer community who may not know Mary Ann’s story:
At two years old, Mary Ann was diagnosed with Autism, which was rarely diagnosed at the time, due to little information being available. Instead of sending her to an institution as advised, her mother Martha Ziegler fought to make sure she received the same public education that other children without disabilities participated in. Mary Ann worked her way through school and received her high school diploma… In her free time she sings in the local church choir and takes singing lessons. Her brother Fred notes, “Her mother, who unfortunately passed away last September, would be very proud knowing she is singing the National Anthem at the Boston State House.”
Those of us in the Redeemer community who knew Martha Ziegler, or attended her memorial service [in 2014], can attest to the significant role she played in the disabilities rights and advocacy movement in Massachusetts and, ultimately, throughout the nation. Her mission was personal, heartfelt, and firm, and her influence was felt far beyond Massachusetts, during what one observer described as a time of “revolutionary change in the disability arena…Mary Ann proves that someone with autism can make remarkable progress. At the same time, Martha’s leading role in changing state and federal policies demonstrates the power of informed, enthusiastic parent involvement.” Martha and Mary Ann’s personal and political story is poignantly told in My daughter, my teacher: Mary Ann, autistic in English and Spanish by Martha Hanes Ziegler, published by iUniverse, Inc. (2010). On page 49, Martha wrote: “When Mary Ann was twenty-six, she began to sing in a local choir, at the Church of Our Redeemer in Lexington center, where she has been warmly welcomed and fully included. She loves music of all kinds.”
To view a video recording of Mary Ann’s performance at the State House, go to: Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council’s Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MassDDCouncil/videos/1080942468588870/
Yours in the Peace and Love of Christ,