Statement from Gov. Tom Ridge

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tom Ridge, the 43rd governor of Pennsylvania and first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, today shared the following comments from a rehabilitation facility in the Washington, D.C. area. Gov. Ridge has been undergoing rehab the last five days since suffering a stroke June 16.

“First off, I need to again thank the EMTs and paramedics who got me to the hospital in time. Just like the team down in Austin a few years back after my heart attack, these dedicated and talented first responders are the reason I’m in a rehab facility today working my way back from this stroke. Where would our nation be right now without these frontline healthcare workers who have given so much – and who risked everything – to keep us all safe during the pandemic? They are remarkable. And they’re my heroes. So, too are the doctors, nurses and rehabilitation professionals who are working me hard three times each day so they can eventually kick me out of here and get me back home. I’m grateful to each and every one of them – even when the rehab hurts like hell! 

For the last 15 years I’ve had the privilege of leading the National Organization on Disability as its chairman. We always talk about how people with disabilities have been historically marginalized, yet it’s the one diversity group any of us can join at any time. I recall discussing that with President Bush who used a wheelchair in the final years of his life. He was so proud to have signed the ADA into law, just as I was proud to have cast an affirmative vote for it when in Congress. Who among us hasn’t been touched by disability in some way? 

I don’t yet know what, if any, long-term disability I’ll be living with, but I do know I’ll take inspiration from people in my life as I recover. People like Luke Visconti, our terrific vice chairman at NOD and the successful leader of Diversity Inc., who himself suffered a significant stroke seven years ago. I have witnessed Luke’s progression over the years, and have marveled at his strength, tenacity and fearlessness. He’s shared his story publicly which I know has positively impacted many people. Luke, like so many stroke patients, lives a productive and meaningful life. I look forward to joining their ranks.  

I want to thank Michele for her unwavering love and support along with my children and entire family and group of wonderful, supportive friends. I’ve not made things easy on them these last few years, that’s for certain. But they are my rocks, and I am eager for the day I can again be with my favorite grandson who is among my primary motivators in rehab.  

Lastly, all of us in the Ridge family have been the beneficiaries of the love, prayers and well wishes sent to us by friends, current and past colleagues and even strangers from around the world, all of whom have greatly buoyed our spirits. A heartfelt Thank You from me and my family. We are grateful. Wishing you a Happy 4th of July and I look forward to seeing you all soon!”