Friday, March 20, 2009

The Weight of the World Down Syndrome Day

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day. The date is selected for its representation of the three copies (third month) of the 21st chromosome (the 21st day). This year it is even more significant as it marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the cause of Down syndrome, that extra copy of Chromosome 21. It is named after the doctor, John Langdon Down, that initially described the grouping of symptoms as a syndrome in 1866. But it was not until 1959 that Jerome Lejeune found the cause.

One of the reasons for having this annual awareness day is "to acknowledge our community of people with Down syndrome who have made such wonderful progress over the past decades," as quoted off the World Down Syndrome Day website. But this year it doesn't feel like progress.

During his appearance on Jay Leno's Tonight show, President Obama compared his pathetic attempt at bowling to the Special Olympics. In case you missed it, here's the actual clip:

It is unbelievably heart-breakingly disappointing to have such prejudice escape the mouth of our national leader. He followed his appearance with a quick press release that he meant no harm to Special Olympics. Riiiiiight. The ol "But I didn't mean anything by it" excuse for disrespect. It's precisely because it meant nothing to someone that makes a comment like that so disrespectful. After all his campaign promises to cater to the disabled by fully funding the IDEA and to pass the Community Choice Act, then this? He ran against a disabled veteran whose running mate has a disabled child. I guarantee that he had been briefed ad nauseum on how to speak about people with disabilities. And STILL this? Sigh.......we've come so far but it's clear we have so far yet to go. I can never get discouraged though. I have my son's beautiful smile to keep me moving forward. And I can only hope that part of Obama's effort to dig out of this hole will be an increased spotlight on the Special Olympics, people with disabilities and the impact of words.

And there are a few rays of light out there in the public eye. Politics aside, Sarah Palin is still raising awareness about Down syndrome. THIS is the way one should speak about Special Olympics:

You gotta love Trig in his new glasses and his sister who can't take her eyes off of him. And did you see his adorable smile? It's that smile and it's Caden's smile that reminds us we can do better.

1 comment:

Mommy to those Special Ks said...

:) You have an award waiting for you on my blog!