Brett picked to head presidential panel
As originally appearing in The Boston Globe

By Glen Johnson, Globe Staff

Jim Brett, president of the New England Council and a former state legislator, has been named chairman of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

The 15-member panel is charged with providing advice and assistance to the president and Human Services secretary on a range of topics impacting people with and the field surrounding intellectual disabilities.
Brett previously served two two-year terms as a member of the committee under President George W. Bush. He was urged to apply for the chairmanship, he said, by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

“I am very honored and humbled to be chair of this commission,” Brett said during an interview.
The Dorchester resident a special perspective to the committee: His late brother, Jack, the eldest of his family’s six children, was born with an intellectual disability.

He recalled how doctors advised his mother to institutionalize Jack, but, instead, she replied, “No way. He’s coming home with me. And I’m going to have more children.”

Brett added: “She taught us to make sure that he’s part of everyone’s daily life. And he taught me about the issues of disability, and the challenges just to function every day. When I got elected, I promised to learn about the situation and be an advocate.”

Brett served in the state House of Representatives for 15 years. He has been president of the New England Council since 1996. It promotes economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region.

He also continues to serve as chairman of the Massachusetts Governor’s Commission on Intellectual Disability, and previously served as co-chairman of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Inpatient Study Commission.

In 2009, the Boston Red Sox invited him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park in recognition of his national contributions to people with intellectual disabilities. Jack died last September at age 76.

“I carry his picture everywhere I go,” said Brett. “I’m very pleased I can keep his memory alive by advocating, on a national stage, for some of those issues that were important to him.”

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