FEATURED ARTICLE: Radio Lessons
By Rob McInnes, © Diversity World, March 2004
Sometimes I enjoy movies that have been dubbed “sappy” by the critics. “Radio”, starring Ed Harris and Cuba Gooding Jr. is one of them. While it may not have won accolades as a film production, it did send me home with some (re)inspiration and some important thoughts to reflect on. (If you haven’t seen the movie, you might consider watching it before you read this article. I wouldn’t want to spoil the experience for you.) The movie is based on the true life experience of James Robert “Radio” Kennedy from Anderson, South Carolina. Forty years ago, as a young man with a developmental disability (he still cannot ...view middle of the document...
Based on that assessment, they would consider him to be unemployable or marginally employable – perhaps recommending him to “sheltered” employment or a group work station of some kind. If he was lucky, Radio might have been assigned to a job developer with a little more imagination and creativity – someone who would have recognized his obvious interest and aptitude in pushing a shopping cart. Likely, this job developer would have quickly developed a position for him with a large retailer in the area – to collect and return carts from their parking lot. Maybe he would have been assigned to a job developer with both imagination and ambition – someone who would have taken a cue from Radio’s fascination with radios. Likely this job developer would have contacted local businesses that retailed or manufactured audio equipment – and worked with them to carve out a job opportunity for Radio.
Unfortunately, too many job developers are like the fist one – really just inventory clerks. They are relatively ineffective unless their clients have a set of clear, highly marketable skills that are in sync with the demands of the local job market. Fortunately, like the other two, many job developers are visionary. Like futurists, they are capable of taking an inventory of what is evident – and then imagining what it could become in the future.
Interestingly, none of the attributes that made Radio so successful in his later life were readily evident in the young man that Coach Jones first encountered – and would not have been evident to a job developer either. Radio had those innate qualities and abilities; but even if they looked for them, no one could likely have seen them at that point in his life. It causes me to wonder how many people with disabilities have fabulous stores of raw talent and aptitudes that, disturbingly, can not be picked up on the radar screens of their job developers and are therefore not a factor in the advice, counsel and direction they are given. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could outfit job developers with paranormal senses that would give them uncanny insight into the hidden skills and talents of their clients? Sadly, I don’t think that we will see “Paranormal Job Development and Career Counseling, Inc.” opening its doors in the near future. In the meantime, however, perhaps it would be enough if all job developers and career counselors were simply humbly conscious that most of their clients likely have reservoirs of talent and potential that lie unseen but straining to be released.
Happily, even without the help of a normal or paranormal job developer, Radio is now a successful and beloved sports coach. He doesn’t possess many of the skills that a typical “coach” requires. I assume that he has little expertise in the strategies of the games, performance stats, even basic management skills – yet he is literally brimming with the skills that a coach needs to inspire, motivate and excite their players and fans. Radio’s real job...