Raise Your Voice for Dignity!

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This piece was originally published at the Special Olympics blog — The World of Olympics — and is being republished here with permission.

Dear Friends of Special Olympics:

Many people have shared with me in recent days the tragic news about a girl named Amelia who was refused a spot on a waiting list at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a liver transplant because she is “mentally retarded.”

When I heard about this, it made my blood boil.

Some have questioned why we in Special Olympics have mounted a campaign to challenge the humiliating use of the word, “retard.” Others have sometimes suggested that Special Olympics has gone beyond its mission in mounting the world’s largest public health campaign to close the disparities and outright bigotry that still infect systems of care delivery for people with intellectual differences.

Still others wonder why so many of us speak with such passion about how sport is needed to unleash the power of the human spirit and to attack the vicious discrimination that so often crushes innocent people unjustly.

I say to all of them, open your eyes to the discrimination that goes unchecked all around us and help us stop it now.

If you are a medical professional, raise your voice for dignity now!

If you are a conservative political leader, fight for the dignity of all citizens now!

If you are a liberal political leader, fight for the dignity of all citizens now!

If you are a parent, raise your voice for the dignity of Amelia just as if she were your own now!

If you are a young person, blast the social networks with your commitment to Amelia’s dignity and justice now!

If you are a Special Olympics athlete or family member or coach or volunteer, challenge the status quo and fight for Amelia’s right to play and win the game of life now!

There can be no bystanders at moments like this. Amelia is everyone’s child. If she is denied care, we are all denied our humanity.

This is life and death and that’s not just rhetoric. Please join us in stopping this tragic injustice.

Photo credit: SidVicious08 at Deviantart.com

About the Author

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Timothy P. Shriver is a social leader, educator, activist, film producer and business entrepreneur. As Chairman & CEO of Special Olympics, he serves nearly 4 million Special Olympics athletes in 180 countries. He has transformed Special Olympics into a movement that focuses on acceptance, inclusion, and respect for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Shriver created exciting new Special Olympics initiatives in athlete leadership, cross-­cultural research, health, and education. Among them, Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® has become the world’s largest public health screening and education program for people with intellectual disabilities, and Special Olympics Get Into It®, together with Unified Sports®. Promotes inclusion and acceptance. Before joining Special Olympics in 1995, Shriver was and remains a leading educator focusing on the social and emotional development in learning. He co-­founded and currently chairs the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the leading research organization in the U.S. in the field of social and emotional learning. Shriver earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University, a Master’s degree from Catholic University, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Connecticut.  

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