Dear President Obama,
I would like to first state that I am a supporter of yours. I am, however, very disappointed about the recent joke you made about the Special Olympics during your appearance on the Jay Leno Show. I am most concerned about what this joke says about your integrity and the integrity of our country as a whole. As you know, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 to address the need for equity in the treatment of U.S. citizens who have a disability. Issues that precipitated this legislation included the following: a history founded in the institutionalization, mistreatment, and victimization of individuals with cognitive disabilities; the continued discrimination experienced by those with disabilities in educational, community, and workplace environments; and society’s perpetuation of a belief that those with disabilities are inferior through the use of hurtful slang and jokes that are viewed as humorous and acceptable by the mainstream culture. Individuals with disabilities are a minority group within our society that has a similar history as other minority groups in the mistreatment by the majority culture.
I appreciate that a formal statement was made about the joke. I also appreciate that you immediately contacted Tim Shriver of the Special Olympics, even before the show aired, to directly apologize to him. But what you do now is most important and will have the greatest impact on how you are seen as a President in terms of issues involving equality and discrimination of individuals with disabilities. The saddest part of the entire situation was the laughter after your joke. This demonstrates the continued attitude our society has about those with disabilities. This is the same attitude that allowed individuals to be mistreated and victimized at Willowbrook State School in the 1960s and 1970s. Individuals with disabilities are seen as an acceptable target. Why did the audience laugh at this hurtful joke when another joke about another minority group may have been immediately deemed as taboo? Why didn’t anyone stand up in the audience or studio, including Jay Leno, and tell you that this was wrong? Why did it take refection before the cry of outrage about this joke? Why do we continue to believe that it is appropriate to joke about those in our society that most need our support? You must take action to show that you are directly advocating for those with disabilities. You need to make this an important, visible part of your administration. You need to show you have integrity to do something about this issue. Anything less will be disappointing to me, my family, my friends, and especially my daughter, who will someday proudly participate in the Special Olympics. This is the Civil Rights Movement of today – please be the leader in this cause.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.
Please be a Quinn's Crusader and send a statement to President Obama at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/
Thank you for all of your support!