Madam President, I rise to discuss the importance the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I want to thank Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar for their outstanding leadership in this important treaty, as well as Senator Harkin, my neighbor to the south for all he has done for people with disabilities.

For many years I served on the advisory board of Pacer, one of the nation's greatest organizations for parents of kids with disabilities, and saw firsthand what so many families go through every day, the incredible courage and the love that they show for their children and the really inspiration that so many people with disabilities bring to our country.

To paraphrase Minnesota's own happy warrior, Hubert Humphrey, the moral test of a government isn't just how it treats the young, the health and the able-bodied, it's also how it treats the sick, the elderly and the disabled, those in need of a little extra support. That may be the moral test of a government but I believe it is also the moral test of a people and the moral test of a country.

Today I call on all of my colleagues to vote to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for two simple reasons. First of all, ratifying this treaty is about protecting the rights of U.S. citizens who are living with disabilities overseas. Right now, thousands of Americans with disabilities, including our men and women in uniform, live, work, study and travel abroad. I believe that these Americans deserve the same rights and protections that they would enjoy if they were living in the United States and this treaty is about ensuring those rights and protections.

Second, ratifying this treaty is about advancing a core moral value that we all share as Americans, the idea that all people are created equal and that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. Our country has long led the world as a beacon for equality and human dignity, and this treaty would elevate our role in promoting human rights around the globe.

These are American values but they are especially near and dear to my heart as a Senator from Minnesota, where we have a long and proud tradition of working to ensure that people with disabilities have access to the same basic resources and opportunities as everyone else.

After all, it was the Minnesota ramp project that introduced a new American model for building statewide standardized wheelchair ramps. We're the state that sent Paul Wellstone to the United States senate, where he fought long and hard for mental health parity, something that finally passed in this senate and was signed into law after he died that it was signed into law. We're home to some of the most innovative centers to disabled in the country, including Pacer, already mentioned, the Courage Center and ARC. We even have one of the most accessible baseball stadiums in the country. And while the Twins -- we're looking forward to a better season for them next year -- we are so proud of our new stadium and how accessible it is for people with disabilities

In many foreign countries, not even schools and hospitals can meet these standards for people with disabilities. When a person isn't even able to get an education or access to health care they need because of a disability, that's a very big problem. Even more troubling is the fact that some foreign countries lack laws for protecting the disabled against discrimination, meaning they have no recourse after being denied a job or an education or the use of public services. Remember, these inequities don't just affect foreign citizens, they affect Americans who are living in those countries.

So this is what is at stake here, protecting our own citizens when they travel to other countries and extending the values of equality and justice that we so cherish in our own country. It's important to note that ratifying this treaty will not require any changes to United States laws nor will it impact American sovereignty or will it incur costs to taxpayers. It has been endorsed by every major disabled persons rights organization, every major veteran service organization, the chamber of commerce, and several Republican and Democratic administrations.

Madam President, protecting the rights of the most vulnerable among us is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of decency and an issue of dignity and I believe it is an issue that we must all stand behind as Americans. I urge my colleagues to ratify this treaty and move us forward in advancing the rights of disabled people around the world. Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.