The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Spread the word to end the word

Letter to the Editor | Monday, March 30, 2009

Today, March 31, Notre Dame will join over 40 universities worldwide, 100+ high schools and countless citizens in a global effort to bring dignity and respect to people with intellectual disabilities by pledging to end the pejorative use of the word “retard(ed)”.

From Stanford to Princeton, Colorado State to American University of Beirut, students are speaking against the discrimination and dehumanization faced by people with intellectual disabilities. As the co-founder of this international “End the R-Word Day”, I ask you to join us for reasons of social justice. To the 157+ million with intellectual disabilities worldwide and their families, the word “retard(ed)” is hate speech. It is a derogatory and dehumanizing epithet that invokes a history of institutionalization, shame, and cruelty that continues today. Its effects are parallel to racial slurs though even more dangerous. While ethnic minorities have the capacity of self defense and the ability to demonstrate the fallacies of the discrimination they face, those with intellectual disabilities are often unable to do so. Many with intellectual disabilities are defenseless to the hate and prejudice society serves them.

Join us and take a stand against hatred and hate speech. As a brother to Olivia, a beautiful young woman with intellectual disabilities, I ask you to join us for reasons of compassion. Rather than dismissing her as “another retard”, emulate her capacity to love unconditionally. Take example from her ability to live without hate. Spend one day with her and learn lessons of life and humanity that no university could ever teach you. Join us and support the dignity of those like Olivia who understand the mysteries of love and happiness in a way that the rest of us never will.

Whatever your reason may be, join us today in LaFortune and the Dining Halls and pledge your support for more respectful language and a more accepting society. We ask not for your time or your money but rather your willingness change your vocabulary to improve the world for Olivia and others with intellectual disabilities.

As an advocate and, more importantly, a brother, I thank you. I love you Olivia.

Soeren Palumbo



March 30