Deriding the Special Olympics: A Window in our Society

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Last night President Obama appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  This was an historic event, as he became the first sitting president to appear on the late night show.  His intention was to continue his campaigning for economic stimulus.  One thing I can say about President Obama, he can campaign well.  He is most comfortable in campaign mode, and seems to prefer that to sitting in the White House all day.  But as part of the "ice breaker" session of jokes and kidding around, President Obama compared his bowling to that of the Special Olympics, in a sarcastic manner.  So much so, that President Obama called the President of the Special Olympics before the show aired to apologize for his remark.  He knew what had happened, but too late.  First, I would like to say that I'm glad he apologized in a timely manner.  It shows that our President isn't too big to admit that he made a mistake.  But the damage had been done.  Those who are least able to defend themselves, those who still look up to the office of the President of the United States as the supreme example of all that is America, heard that remark.  If they didn't hear it that night, they would probably have heard it since as it gets aired on news networks.  Those with special needs know they are different.  They are told they are different in countless ways and by people around them.  Bullies who pick on children and adults with special needs while ordinary people look the other way tell them all they need to know.  People who make snide comments about being "retarded" when they do something stupid...  How do you think that would make a person with special needs that do things like that feel?  I grew up with people who constantly attacked my older brother because he was special needs.  The comments, the mocking laughter, and the bullying.  It was terrible, and I tried to call them on the carpet for it.  Teachers would punish my brother for defending himself, but wouldn't lift a finger to help him.  It was maddening.  I learned just how painful and hurtful our society was then and there.  And now our President, the one that is supposed to be the defender of ALL AMERICANS, not just the people who voted for him, has made those same hurtful comments.  All with the intention of getting a laugh.  Perhaps this will be a good opportunity for our President to start a dialogue about the Special Olympics, and those with special needs.  Perhaps he can help redeem himself by becoming a true advocate.  Perhaps one day he will have someone in his family that has special needs, and will truly understand the perspective that we have.  Perhaps.  But until then:  Mr. President, I'm very disappointed in you.