Happy New Year! Like many, I set several goals that I aim to achieve in 2018. This year, I resolved to shed the few pounds I gained around the holiday season, and to become a more involved advocate to assure my impact reverberates in Washington, D.C; Annapolis, Maryland (the capital of the state I call home); and my local community of Montgomery County.

In a few months, I will celebrate my 65th birthday, and I want to make sure that Social Security is available for me and everyone else approaching retirement age. I want to ensure all children attending public schools in my neighborhood can access the latest technology and teaching strategies to prepare students for the future. I want to make sure that we advance equality for everyone and help those facing poverty to move up the economic ladder. I also want to make sure that we never forget the needs of every person with a disability.

Hopefully, we can all agree that helping people living in poverty or those with disabilities must transcend politics. As a nonpartisan organization, the Autism Society of America, of which I am honored to be President/CEO, welcomes open dialogue with legislators from both sides of the aisle about how to best improve the lives of our fellow Americans. While our organization came out against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act recently signed into law, our opposition centered on the proposal’s impact on people with disabilities, including those living at or below the poverty level. We continue to have grave concerns about the law’s long-term impact on the deficit and budget implications that threaten essential social services and safety net programs. Certainly, I want the tax bill to be a success, but not at the expense of those in need. This is why I intend to use the power of my voice and encourage each and every one of us to do the same.

In 2018, I promise the Autism Society of America will maintain an unwavering commitment to promoting legislative solutions that enable people with autism and other disabilities to reach their greatest potential. We will proactively educate and inform policymakers about the needs of those we proudly serve. We will work in collaboration with all who share our fundamental belief that each person with a disability must be respected, valued and provided optimal opportunities to live the highest quality of life possible.

My goal is that on December 31, 2018, I can look back at the year knowing I met at least one of my resolutions — since it’s likely these extra pounds I picked up on Thanksgiving will still be here.