Thursday, February 11, 2010

In the words of a 13-year-old boy


This is a speech Kevin, our oldest son, wrote, and which he will be giving in front of the student body and their families at his school in a couple of weeks.

I just want to note that this is Kevin's cause, and one he is pretty passionate about. We, his parents, have never pushed him to take on this cause. He loves his brother so much, and takes his responsibility as an advocate very seriously.

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I know that history can sometimes be boring, but just for a second let’s think back to the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln was still America’s president. He made a speech called The Gettysburg Address. In his speech, Lincoln said that all men are created equal. Now let’s fast-forward in time to August 28, 1963. On that day Martin Luther King, Jr. made his “I have a dream” speech. He also said that all people should be equal. I strongly agree with this, and I’m sure many of you think you agree, too.

Now today, here in 2010, I’m making my own speech.

How many of you here discriminate against people of a different race than your own? How many of you discriminate against those of another religion? Probably not many of you. But I’m not done yet.

How many of you discriminate against . . . my baby brother, or people like him? I doubt that any of you think you do. But let’s think about this. I’m sure many of you here have used a single word that hurts like a missile. That word is “retard.” I could ask you all if you know what “retarded” actually means, but I doubt many of you do. Many people use it to describe something they think is stupid, annoying, ridiculous, or useless. It actually refers to someone with an intellectual disability, like my baby brother, who has Down syndrome. When you say “retard” or call something “retarded,” it shows ignorance and insensitivity. It sounds uneducated. Some people think it’s okay to use as a casual insult because they aren’t specifically referring to the intellectually disabled. This is not true; the word “retard” is inappropriate and unnecessary and unacceptable. It’s offensive and hurtful to my brother, my family, and all other people with disabilities and their families.

It is true that doctors once used the words “mentally retarded” as the official term describing the intellectually disabled. But the word has evolved into a hurtful, offensive insult. There is absolutely no reason why the intellectually disabled should be compared to something YOU believe is useless or stupid. It’s like saying, “You’re stupid, and these disabled people are stupid, so I’m gonna insult them and you by saying you’re as dumb as them!”

My baby brother is sitting on the floor watching me closely as I write this speech, a smile on his face. Is it my brother’s fault that he was born with an extra chromosome, that he has Down Syndrome? No. And yet, he will deal with discrimination for his entire life, unless we do something to change that. A very simple thing: stop using the words “retard” and “retarded.” Just remove those words from your vocabulary.

Maybe some of you know somebody with an intellectual disability, and you understand.

Some of you will walk away when I am done, laughing, and saying, “That speech was retarded!

Some of you will agree with what I’ve said, but continue using the words and being hurtful anyway.

But some of you will truly understand. You will educate other people to know that everyone, regardless of race, religion, or intellectual ability, deserves to be treated with equal kindness, respect, and dignity. You will truly understand what it means to be equal.

20 comments:

Following HIM said...

Amazing speech! I have tears for a brother's love :)
~Elyse

onlywhoiam said...

Everyone deserves a big brother like that. Big, big respect for him. I cannot wait to hear how it goes.

Jen over at only who i am

Keri said...

Bravo for Kevin for having more courage than I would have at that age!

Karly said...

What a intelligent, kind young man he is. Truly.

Talley Images said...

I dont even have words to say how unbelievably good that is. Bravo Kevin. Hope it opens alot of people's eyes and hearts.

Kelly said...

Finn is so lucky to have Kevin's brotherly love. Lisa, you must be so proud of both of your boys, and the bond that they obviously have. How wonderful that Kevin has the courage to address his school with such a contoversial topic. And one that tugs at the heart of so many of us. A true advocate he will be for Finn and so many others. Thank you Kevin for helping to make this world a better place....one person (school) at a time!

alyny said...

Oh Lisa I have tears in my eyes. Kevin is such an amazing young man. I am so happy that not only does Finn have him for a brother but that he will change other people's lives with his advocacy. He is only 13,imagine what a remarkable adult he will be.

Alyson

ds.mama said...

Go Kevin! His words make it so clear and I hope people finally get it. Lisa, you should be so proud of your son! Not just for the topic, but also for the writing and the style. He is good.

Jennifer Zener said...

Kevin...You ROCK! What a meaningful speech. I hope the whole school has the opportunity to hear it!

Esther and Brian said...

Oh my, this is one amazing child, Lisa. I am truly, if you told me that a college student wrote this, I would believe you. Or an adult. It's hard to imagine that there are intelligent, smart and passionate kids of Kevin's age are actually out there. Just don't run across this often. This is amazing. You should be so incredibly proud of him, which I know that you are. Of him and all the other five munchkins!

Wow.

Tara said...

Lisa, I'm supposed to educate our youth group at church on this very topic in a few weeks. Would it be wrong of me to steal the words of a 13yo boy?

That was just incredible.

one_plustwins said...

Lisa, wow! You and your husband have a LOT to be proud of. Kevin is a wonderful advocate for his brother and everyone with disabilities.

Let's hear it for Kevin! YAY!!

Monica Crumley said...

That was really moving, Kevin! If your mom would let you, you should record that onto YouTube and let us share that with other school kids on 3/3/10. I'll be talking to an entire school, TK to 8th grade, and those words are very inspiring. But they wouldn't be the same if I said them. Kids listen to kids -- it's a peer thing. I hope you can consider it and then let me know when it's available. I will use it!

Mel said...

Wow. What an impressive young man you are raising.

Kristin said...

Wow! What a great big brother.

Zsuzsi said...

Lisa,
what an amazing kid Kevin is! Not only is his speech compassionate and caring, it is also very well written!
Finn is so fortunate to have him as a big brother and protector. His speech speeks volumes about your values and parenting skills that instilled these thoughts that he expressed so eloquently!

Lisa said...

Lisa, Kevin is amazing... an amazing writer, an amazing brother, an amazing advocate. I actually teared up reading the speech. You done good, sister!

heather said...

I like Monica's idea of putting it up on youtube. He is more eloquent than I have ever been at explaining why that word is so hurtful. What a great writer and even better big brother!

Beth said...

I am just amazed at the courage and maturity and insight of your
13yo son. Bravo Kevin!

Katrina said...

Oh my gosh. This is beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes. I have a daughter with a brain injury (the result of a car accident when she was four) and I know how hurtful that one word can be, how it can tear a hole straight through you heart. God bless your 13 year old for writing this! I hope his speech reaches many ears and hearts.