Several months ago, a United Way employee, Meg Buckingham, wrote an inspiring blog post about how insensitive the word “retard” is to those struggling with a mental handicap or challenge. The blog post was so pointed and timely, that the national organization behind the campaign to end the “r-word” featured the blog post on their facebook page. It was great exposure for a poignant message: Using derogatory words to describe a condition like Down Syndrome is just not acceptable.
How could you not agree with the abolishment of this word from our vernacular? After reading through the facebook page and the website of this campaign, I honestly thought that this was one topic most people could agree on. That is, until Monday night’s presidential debate. I consider myself a moderate conservative, “just to the right” of center. I enjoy political debates and discussions with my friends and foes. But what I heard from conservative author Ann Coulter was appalling. She tweeted during the debate the following:
She tries to insult the president by saying that he is a “retard.” Now, being a generally forgiving person, I assumed that she would quickly recant her statement and beg for public forgiveness for her “spur of the moment” tweet made during a highly contentious presidential debate. Quite the opposite happened. The evening following the debate, I saw her on Inside Edition, actually defending her comments.
I was speechless.
Today, I revisited the topic, and came across probably the perfect response to Ann Coulter’s insensitive remarks. It was made in an open letter format from John Franklin Stevens, a global messenger and an athlete from the Special Olympics. His letter to Ms. Coulter details how his condition does not make him less of a person or dumber than you or me. It just means that his brain processes information at a different speed. He also mentions how he had been bullied as a child and suffered from low-grade health care most of his life, yet he still treats each day “like a wonderful gift.”
Please read Mr. Stevens’ guest blog post on the Special Olympics blog, and see how he turned this negative and hurtful remark into a positive message and an inspiration for others.
United Way of the Greater Triangle works with several partner agencies who serve the mentally challenged, like Mr. Stevens. When this type of cruelty exists, someone has to stand up and say “no more.” I challenge each of you, even if you have done this before, to visit http://www.r-word.org/ and sign the online pledge to end the “r-word” from your daily life.