Amid all the talk about the misbehavior so obviously plaguing Jefferson City, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill contends that the real issue is that little has changed. She was an intern in the Missouri capitol 41 years ago. “I am bitterly disappointed that the climate has not changed significantly since 1974,’’ the senator said, recalling her own experiences with off-color jokes and unsolicited sexual comments. And McCaskill remembers the self-doubt of what she should do. “I wanted to be an intern, and I wanted to learn,” she told reporters in a Tuesday conference call. “I was afraid if I told the university they’d decide they didn’t want to do the intern program anymore. So I just tried to handle it myself.”
As someone who has been disabled almost all her life, Amber Cheek knows how a seemingly kind word or helpful gesture from well-intentioned people can be subtly demeaning. As the director of accessibility at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Cheek also knows that education and understanding can go a long way toward knowing the right words to say and bridging what she sees is often an information and generation gap.