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Man With Down Syndrome Addresses Ann Coulter’s Use of ‘Retard’

John Franklin Stephens' open letter to Ann Coulter
Special Olympics Unity

There’s been a tremendous amount of backlash since Ann Coulter’s offensive and insensitive tweet, in which she referred to President Obama as a “retard” during Monday’s presidential debate. She deserves every bit of criticism she’s received, and then some.

This tweet has ignited a firestorm, because after all, Ann Coulter, it is 2012. Progress, although not enough, has been made to eliminate the use of the R-word to describe individuals with intellectual disabilities. But none of the criticism has been as eloquent and heartfelt as a letter written by John Franklin Stephens, a 30-year-old man with Down syndrome.

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Stephens addresses the public’s notion about those with intellectual disabilities.

“I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.  I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you.”

He took the high road, and avoided calling Coulter a bully.

“I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.”

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The ‘R-word’ is no longer a socially-accepted term, and Stephens called her out on it.

“After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me.  You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.”

And finally, he indicated that those with intellectual disabilities will not have their spirits broken, and challenged Coulter to open her heart to those with special needs.

“No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much. Come join us someday at Special Olympics. See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.”

See the entire letter here, at the Special Olympics Unity website.

- George McIntyre
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