Mark Perriello: Freedom Fighter


Mark Perriello, longtime civil rights leader and current Obama aide, will be speaking at StraightTalk, sponsored by FIAT 500. Perriello was recently named President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the country’s largest cross-disability membership organization. He will be speaking with Moe Vela on the Politics Panel at the Tribeca Grand Hotel in NYC Friday, October 7th. For more information, visit


What do you do and why?

I fight for equality because all people deserve access to opportunity and the right to self-determination.


Which quality or talent makes you most successful?

Luck. There are millions people who could fill my shoes, so I approach each day knowing how fortunate I am to have a job that I love, where I get to fight everyday to make the world a better place.


Who are the three people who most inspire you?

My friend Kevin Tilden


One of my closest friends, he is at the gym most every day by 5 am and to work as Vice President of California American Water by 6 am.  He has a great work/life balance and spends a lot of time helping those he cares for most succeed.  His dedication to his family, friends, and community is the piece that inspires me most.


Leader Elizabeth Birch


I was fortunate to work at HRC while Elizabeth was Executive Director. Her work building HRC inspires me in my work at AAPD. My hope is to take some of her best ideas and replicate them in the disability community in order to build a more powerful grassroots infrastructure. “¨ 




I am not inspired by all vets, and not one vet, but many of them. I know quite a few people who wish they had become vets, but didn’t. Therefore, they impress me as a group of people who know what they love and go after it. While generalizations are ripe with peril, the main point is that anyone who goes after their dreams, despite voices of dissent, is inspiring to me. 


What are you most passionate about? 


I am most passionate about making the world a better place for the next generation. There are millions of kids growing up in a world where same-sex couples have the right to marry and where the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a fact of life.  These two examples show how the long march towards justice makes the world a better place for all.  For instance, imagine showing up to get married at City Hall with a partner who uses a wheelchair, and not being able to get onto the side walk because there are no curb cuts or into the building because there are no ramps.  Equal access comes in many forms. We are moving in the right direction. There is still more to be done.


What drives you to succeed?


I am driven to do the best job that I can on any project or challenge before me. Even if the result isn’t ideal, I am satisfied knowing that every stone was turned, every scenario thought through, and every ounce of energy expended to achieve an agreed upon goal. When fighting for people’s rights, the opportunities for a due over are rare and they come with the substantial penalty of negative precedence. We need to get it right the first time, every time.

About The Author

Sweet connects all the dots of Shannon’s life, combining her passion for the environment and human rights with her love of travel and women. Obsessed with finding a way to make the economics of doing good in the world work, Shannon strives to create a successful and green business run by happy employees for blissed-out guests. It’s her favorite kind of situation—a win-win-win. Recently, Shannon was named one of the “Advocate Magazine’s 40 under 40″, Go Mag‘s “Women We Love” and the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association‘s Travel Innovator of 2010. In her spare time, Shannon enjoys sleeping, hiking, building treasures from trash, chasing her little bear and burning brush. She lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills with her son, Theron aka little bear, and dog, Reggie.

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