Thursday, December 2, 2010

From Nice to Important

When we speak of the urgency of our work at Special Olympics--of the suffering, injustice, and neglect facing our population--I think sometimes we are not taken seriously. When we argue that sport can change lives by reversing a horrific stigma and creating community will for inclusion, I think some people think we're exaggerating. When we challenge humiliating speech because we believe it leads to degrading and humiliating treatment, I think some people believe we should relax.

I hope skeptics will read this article and realize that for millions of people with intellectual disabilities, these conditions, as disgusting as they are, are normal. And let us all remember that when we ask, give, or go the extra distance to fight for our athletes, we are fighting for life itself. The stakes are high and if anyone doesn't believe us, ask them to spend a few days in these institutions, half naked, filthy, at risk of rape or lobotomy or worse. Maybe then, they'll understand that a soccer ball isn't about a nice event for "them" but rather about an urgent movement designed to save lives and offer hope and dignity to all of us.


  1. Hi Tim,

    My name is Lucille Brown. I work with an organisation that helps find families for children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities in Eastern Europe. Reece's Rainbow.

    I am actually not here about that though. I am here to ask for your help. There is an Etsy seller that has some extremely offensive items he makes and sells.

    Etsy has been notified and has chosen to let his things remain. They consider this to not violate their terms of service.

    Is there anything that you are able to do? This sort of thing just furthers abuse of people with special needs (not to mention sexual abuse, if you see his other items).

    If you can email me at to let us know what we as families with people with DS or other disabilities can do and if you are able to contact Etsy and help them understand it would be so very much appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Lucille Brown

  2. Hi Tim,

    Just watched a video clip of some of your comments on MTP on 1/16. You spoke of being open to the voice of the Divine and to others, and you linked that idea about openness to the achievement gap and the underperformance of kids. You spoke of the essentialness of being taught the social and emotional skills that can result in a better understanding of ourselves (self-awareness), of how to connect with others, in order to be able to solve problems nonviolently. You closed your comments by relating these essential skills as being tools needed to build a better country.

    Yes, yes, and yes! I just read an interesting article in the 1/17 NewYorker by David Brooks: "Social Animal: How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life." You may be interested in the thoughts expressed by a neuroscientist named Marco Iacoboni, which you can find towards the end of that article, and which support your comments during the MTP show. He speaks of his belief that sentiments and horizontal connections with others are at the core of everything, and that our families and our society-at-large encourage us to shove these protoconversations to the periphery of life, at great expense to happiness and flourishing. Iacoboni suggests that we adjust our emphases from being narrowly focused on things like getting into the right schools and landing the right jobs, to beginning to access a deeper layer of consciousness.

    I hope that people like you, and Brooks, and Iacoboni will continue pressing these ideas, which are in too many ways antithetical to our education tradition in America. They certainly have little if anything to do with No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, or any program based on the false assumption that everyone learning the same knowledge well enough will result in equal opportunities for success, and that this will solve the problems we as a nation and as a world face today.

    Additional comments re your MTP remarks: First, your reference to the Divine: Not being affiliated with any organized religion, this made me think of meditation as a way to access the deeper truths that I think lie within all of us. Some of us will want to call this the Divine, while others will not. However, I think we're all likely referring to the same thing. Second, I like to envision the day when we no longer speak of solving problems nonviolently, and I'll bet MLK would heartily approve of this vision. We can't solve any problem with violence. All we do is replace one set of problems with another; we're just kicking the can down the road.

    That's all. Just felt inspired to respond to your MTP comments. Take care.

  3. Dear Tim and Shriver family,
    Our family sends our heart felt condolences to you and yours upon your tremendous loss today. As a 2 term VISTA, Special Olympics fan and mother to a future Special Olympian, your family has influenced our lives immensely. I will continue to strive to be a light in this world from the great example your family has shown the world.
    With gratitude,
    Jen, Mark, Alexander, Sophia, & Helena Schrad