Still utilizing the principles from his 1998 book, “You Can Make it Happen:  A Nine Step Plan for Success,” Stedman Graham enthralled the audience attending The Arc of the United States 2009 National Convention. The conference was held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center Nov. 11 through 14. More than 500 were on hand from across the United States as Graham, keynote speaker and panelist, spoke on the topic— “Inspired by My Siblings” during the welcome and opening plenary session. Very familiar with The Arc organization, Graham says his mother is a founding member of the organization in his hometown, Whiteboro, N.J.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS— Stedman Graham pinpoints his nine-step plan for success.

The Arc’s 58th National Convention consisted of a gathering of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, families, self-advocates, professionals and others. Graham, who has two brothers with disabilities, shared a message of achievement.


“The most powerful word in the world is love. The barrier to success is that we don’t love enough,” said Graham, admitting that it took him a long time to realize it. Pinpointing his nine-step plan for success, he said, “Your identity is based on what you love, what you can do and your talents.” He discussed creating a vision and developing a plan for life, changing your thinking and attitude through hard work, determination and self-motivation. He emphasized that overcoming fear requires stepping out of the box and leaving one’s comfort zone, as well as dealing with change and challenges. “I don’t know what I would do without my family,” he said, stating that building a dream team is necessary. The last steps he identified included being informed, assessing personal strengths and needs against one’s belief system, the need of making cautious decisions, to commit to your vision and to be the best that you can be.

The author of 10 books, Graham is a motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the chairman and CEO of S. Graham and Associates, a management and marketing consulting company specializing in corporate and educational markets. Based in Chicago, he considers his significant contributions in life as the nine-step process. Alluding to the fact that there are 6.5 billion people in the world, he noted that most of the population doesn’t know who they are. They are followers,” he said. “My goal is to get people to think out of the box, to be able to make educated and informed decisions.”

“We are proud that Pittsburgh was chosen to host the conference this year,” said Nancy Murray, president of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh. Held here for the first time, she says it is great to showcase services and support systems for people with disabilities within the Allegheny County area. Involved in the community since 1956, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh is noted for leading the way in protecting the rights of and promoting opportunities for children and adults with disabilities, has provided support and education to families, and has influenced public opinion and legislation. The organization also serving Beaver County is considered as the heart and soul of the ACHIEVA family of organizations through its grass roots efforts and its well-recognized ability to create systemic change not only for families in Pennsylvania but throughout the nation.

Formerly Arc Allegheny and Arc of Beaver County, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh is a membership organization whose more than 1,000 members make it the largest chapter affiliated with the Arc of Pennsylvania and one of the largest chapters nationwide affiliated with the Arc of the United States.

The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh is one of five organizations that make up the ACHIEVA family. ACHIEVA, formerly Arc Allegheny, is the nonprofit parent organization and western Pennsylvania’s largest provider of comprehensive services and supports for people with disabilities and their families.

As Pittsburgh area’s sixth largest health and social service nonprofit organization, Marsha Blonco, CEO of ACHIEVA, says that she has seen the need for services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities increase by 15 to 20 percent throughout the last 20 years. “We have a waiting list of people in need for services all across the board; she pointed out sighting a lack of funding as one reason for the wait.

Both Blonco and Murray viewed the conference as a gathering to learn from other organizations that have developed best practices and demonstrated innovation across the spectrum of services, supports and research that affect people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Involved in the social service field for many years, ACHIEVA board member and past chairperson of ACHIEVA Support, Fran Carter encourages minorities to access and utilize the services of ACHIEVA and The Arc. “These are topnotch agencies with caring staff,” she said.

Other highlights of the conference themed “Inspiring Innovation: With Adversity Comes Opportunity” included the presentation of The Arc’s President’s Award to the late- Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. The honor was given posthumously. Many breakout sessions and workshops, discussions by corporate leaders such as Walmart and Lowe’s about working with employees who have disabilities took place along with conversations with the Obama administration and The Arc’s public policy staff concerning issues on Medicaid, health care reform and civil rights enforcement. There were extensive exhibitors and showcases, cultural activities and opportunities to network with attendees from across the country.

The 2010 national convention will be held in Orlando, Fla. The Arc will be celebrating its 60-year anniversary.

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