Why Preserve the Memory of Pennhurst?

A lone wheelchair in Union Hall
photo: Wayne L. Benner

Memory is the critical language and terrain of human rights. Through preserving past evidence of neglect, we make it real, we make it present, and we make it public. The place that bears the mark of the painful past becomes a powerful catalyst for awareness, action, relevance, inspiration, and investment in multiple senses. What happened at Pennhurst and how did caring families and employees finally rise up to end it? How did that change create reform across the globe? What does it mean to be classed as "the other" and how and where is it still happening today? A place of memory at Pennhurst must approach these questions, and lead toward a national dialogue leading toward a more preferred future.

At some point many of us will become disabled in some manner, whether from injury or old age. But the events played out at Pennhurst affect all of us in ways that are even more profound. The struggle for acceptance, understanding, and, ultimately, freedom, is central to what it means to be an American. Moreover, it is the dream of oppressed people the world over. Here, at Pennhurst, we have a complex but positive and inspiring story to tell. This place of pain can become place of healing, reconciliation, and insight. It will be a center of national conscience with a message that knows no political, racial, or socio-economic bounds.

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Read more About Pennhurst on our About Pennhurst State School page...