Spread the Word to End the Word’
Nicole McAlee | Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Notre Dame students are pledging to “Spread the Word to End the Word” today to fight insensitivity toward those with disabilities as part of “End the R-Word Day.”
“Spread the Word to End the Word [is] a campaign started by Soeren Palumbo, a 2011 graduate, and Timothy Shriver,” said Maureen Connelly, co-president of Special Olympics Notre Dame. “The ultimate focus of the campaign is to spread awareness and help people realize the hurtfulness of the derogatory use of the word ‘retarded’ and to encourage them not only to pledge to not use it, but to encourage other people to not use it as well.”
This year marks the fifth “End the R-Word Day.” While Palumbo instituted the day at Notre Dame, the University is just one of hundreds of colleges and elementary, middle and high schools across the country participating in the campaign.
Palumbo, a 2011 graduate of Notre Dame, founded Special Olympics Notre Dame his senior year with a group of students in an effort to increase engagement between students and disabled members of the community through athletics. Palumbo, who is pursuing a JD/MBA at the University of Pennsylvania, will be speaking at tomorrow’s “Spread the Word” rally at 7 p.m. in the Hesburgh Library’s Carey Auditorium.
“I’ll be there to talk about where ‘Spread the Word’ came from, how did it start, how did it grow, what role did Notre Dame play in those two things, why is it important, where is it going [and] what is Notre Dame’s role in the future of the campaign,” Palumbo said.
Students can commit to the cause by signing banners from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in both dining halls and LaFortune Student Center. Connelly said students are encouraged to not only pledge themselves to the campaign, but to solicit participation from friends.
“Encourage others – truly spread the word to end the word. If you hear someone using it, it’s uncomfortable, but at the same time it’s so powerful to have someone tell you, ‘Hey, you really shouldn’t use that in that sense,'” Connelly said. “If you never really realized how offensive it was before, it kind of opens up your eyes. People are scared sometimes to speak out against it, but they don’t realize that some people truly don’t know that it’s offensive.”
Palumbo said the campaign is about more than ending use of the r-word.
“I think that it’s important to end the use of the r-word because language not only informs us, language transforms us,” he said. “When we use divisive words or exclusionary words or dehumanizing words, like retard or retarded, we not only build up barriers between people and isolate people and exclude people, but we ourselves become the barriers. We force others out when we define our world through exclusionary language.”
Using these insensitive terms is not just hurtful to people with disabilities, Palumbo said.
“At the same time, I think that it robs us without disabilities of that perspective, that dimension of the human experience that I think is very enriching and contributes to a more complete and more beautiful understanding of what it means to be human,” he said. “When we use the words retard or retarded, we embrace the attitude that it engenders and we prevent all of that.”