Friday, April 27, 2012

Dear fellow Dignity Revolutionaries

We live in a time when any person with a story to tell can tell it. Technology is not the message but the means for the messengers. And our field, more than almost any other, needs messengers.

The Dignity Revolution has been stonewalled for centuries in large part because there was no way to tell the stories, no way for the walls of institutions to allow the human faces behind them to be seen, no way for the secret schemes and experiments of hospitals and laboratories to surface, no way for the voices of those with challenges to be heard or believed when abuse was rampant.

Thankfully, that's changing as the peaceful advocates of the Dignity Revolution now rise up and speak and begin to tell the world the horror stories of abuse and neglect and ridicule that can no longer be ignored. A few months ago, we read the heart wrenching story of the abusive treatment of Amelia Rivera and her family in Philadelphia. Our community answered the call. Today, Amelia Rivera is back in line for a transplant. Together we rose.

A few weeks later, I heard first hand about the denial of legislatively mandated care for people with intellectual disabilities in Panama. When the volunteers of Special Olympics Panama saw the full extent of the neglect, they created their own clinic and opened the doors so that any person with an intellectual disability would find a doctor ready to heal. Together we rose.

And today, I watched this video by Stu Chaifetz about teachers and adults who bullied Akian, a ten year old with autism in Cherry Hill New Jersey. It is a tale of fear and rage, as heartbreaking as it is infuriating. It is a call to all of us to rise up again, to demand change in Cherry Hill, to ask for an accounting from those who were abusive. Our own young leaders in Special Olympics Project Unify will understand the horrors of this video perhaps better than anyone. In a special way, I ask their leadership now.

First and foremost, sign the petition demanding legislative action at and then share this post with everyone you know. But we can't stop there. Let's flood the switchboards in Cherry Hill and write emails to demand answers. Ask your own districts what they do to ensure that this kind of abuse doesn't go unnoticed in your schools. Appeal to your boards of education to repeal any policy that protects any teacher or any adult who is abusive to children. Remind the world that the vast majority of special educators are dedicated human beings who make a difference everyday and that we all need to work to support them in making all schools places of acceptance and unity.

This is another call to action for our Dignity Revolution. Thank goodness that the athletes and young leaders of Special Olympics are telling their stories of achievement and health and joy around the world and asking for a stop to humiliation and stigma. If we needed reminders of why their work to educate the world about difference and their play to bring about a more accepting and joyful future is so important, we have another one today. Watch the video and then take action. That's who we are and that's what we must do.
Rise up revolutionaries!

Timothy Shriver The Special Olympics Movement If you are a fan of joy, courage, and the human race, then you are already a fan of Special Olympics 

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