Sue Swenson is chief executive officer of The Arc of the United States, the oldest and largest advocacy and service organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her middle son Charlie has developmental disabilities. She has been a fed, a Senate fellow, a foundation director, and a parent advocate, all in pursuit of improving the lives of the millions of Americans who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Swenson is invited to speak when a “big picture” orientation is needed. In meetings with such diverse groups as local school and parent organizations, the U.S. Senate, the Pan American Health Organization, and the United Nations, Swenson uses philosophical schema she learned from Richard McKeon at the University of Chicago to generate approaches to problems, programs, projects, and paradoxes. She is fairly expert at thinking systematically and speaking plainly. She is proud that her presentations are easily translatable into sign language.
Swenson has been working on an interpretation of Hamlet for 30 years. Someday she hopes to have the time and the courage to write down everything she knows. And more than 30 years ago, Swenson remembers seeing the already-famous Roger Ebert at an Irish pub on North Avenue in Chicago, but she cannot remember if she met him or not. Probably not. Swenson is an amateur baker and cook with more than 800 pounds of “fully grown man” to show for it.