For over 50 years, Special Olympics has been identified with the Kennedy clan. In June 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a camp for children with disabilities at her home in Maryland. Eunice knew first hand from her sister, Rosemary, who had severe disabilities that these children needed and deserved play, competition, and exercise, like all children. Eunice’s summer day camp grew into Special Olympics charity which now provides year round sports training and competition in 165 countries for 2.5 million athletes. It is an extraordinary organization which brings immense health and psychological benefits to individuals with disabilities while providing the joy of athletic competition and fellowship.
Surely, these precious children who are the core constituency of the Special Olympics would prompt the international charity to issue a swift and loud condemnation of Dawkins’ vile comments? Surely, Special Olympics Board of Directors would use this media moment as a unique opportunity to educate the world about the joy and dignity of these special individuals? No, not a word.
Instead, the global non profit founded by ardent pro lifer, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, whose mission is to serve intellectually disabled persons, responded with dead cold silence.
When prominent atheist Richard Dawkins recently tweeted that these Down’s babies in the womb should be aborted, he ignited an international fury of protests. Since his heartless statement, Dawkins said that he has been “bombarded” with photos of children with Down syndrome and with descriptions that feature how much their families love and care for them.
The social media blogosphere rained down on Dawkins with the loudest critics coming from siblings and parents of Down’s individuals. Most prominent of the comments came from former V.P. candidate, Sarah Palin, whose 6 year old son, Trig has Down Syndrome. Palin posted several photos of Trig and extended an invitation to Dawkins to visit and meet her son in hopes that he would see the beauty that lies beneath the diagnosis:
I’d let you meet my son if you promised to open your mind, your eyes, and your heart to a unique kind of absolute beauty.
But, in my request for you to be tolerant, I’d have to warn Trig he must be tolerant, too, because he may superficially look at you as kind of awkward. I’ll make sure he’s polite, though!
Sarah Palin & family
Timothy Shriver, son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics is the leader and spokesman for Special Olympics. His opinion and defense of disabled children and adults holds great weight and power. In commenting about Sarah Palin’s decision to give birth to Trig Palin, Tim Shriver wrote in 2008,
“So let’s agree that couples should have the choice. But let’s also agree that the best choice is life. Maybe Trig Palin could show us the way to unite behind that simple hope.”
Why the silence now in the face of Dawkins cruel statement?
Yet, Shriver has not uttered a word of condemnation against Dawkins. He and his Board remain silent over Dawkins’ outrageous comments. Incredibly, the premiere charity whose main constituents are Down Syndrome individuals utters not a word in opposition to Dawkins’ callous, cold hearted, vile comments about people with disabilities for which Special Olympics raises millions with an annual budget of $90 million. No press statement is posted on their website condemning Dawkins’ comments. No TV interviews on the Today Show with Tim Shriver talking about Dawkins discriminatory hate speech against Special Olympians. No twitter postings, no hashtags, no Facebook postings. Nothing, but silence.
However, prominently featured on the Special Olympics website is a photo of celebrity Katy Perry singing at the White House during a July 31, 2014 charity event for Special Olympics. This may very well have been a payback for Obama’s tacky remark while appearing on Jay Leno in 2009. When Leno asked him about his bowling prowess, Obama responded that he bowls at 129… “it’s like the Special Olympics or something.”
After a social media blowback, Obama placed a phone call to CEO Tim Shriver offering an apology. Apparently, Shriver was so touched by the apology that he appeared on an ABC morning television show to gush about the President’s apology. “He expressed his disappointment and he apologized, in a way that was very moving,” Shriver said on ABC’s “Good Morning America. “It’s important to see that words hurt, and words do matter. And these words that in some respect can be seen as humiliating or a put-down of people with special needs do cause pain, and they do result in stereotypes,” Shriver added.
Yes, words do matter and do hurt.
As an apology, Obama told Shriver he wanted to have some Special Olympians to come to the White House to participate in bowling or basketball. Apparently, the foot in mouth payback finally came in July 2014 with the Katy Perry White House extravagant event for Special Olympics.
Making up is so much fun, even if it takes years.
The silence of the Kennedy-Shriver clan who routinely gathers at the Special Olympic games posing with celebrities for photos with special athletes many of whom have Down Syndrome is really not so baffling. The Kennedys are first and foremost, liberals. The gold standard of liberalism remains unrestricted access to abortion for any purpose. If given the “choice” to criticize Dawkins for his inhuman remarks about aborting the constituents of Special Olympics, Shriver remains silent. If given the choice to use Dawkins’ hateful rant as an opportunity to talk about the joy and dignity of individuals with Down Syndrome, the Shriver/Kennedy clan chooses to protect the liberal sacred cow of abortion. The Special Olympians deserve better, as Shriver stated in light of Obama’s cruel remarks, “words hurt and words do matter and do cause pain.” Ah, yes, especially when a prominent person suggests you should be aborted!
Rosemary’s babies, the joyful beautiful children of the Special Olympics, deserve a strong defense from Special Olympics and the Kennedys. This is no game. This is life.
Elizabeth Yore is an international child human rights attorney. She was Special Counsel for Harpo, Inc., serving as Oprah Winfrey’s Child Advocate. Her career spans 30 years in international child advocacy in the field of child abduction, exploitation and human rights. She worked for Special Olympics and met Eunice Shriver at the Special Olympics games at Soldier Field in Chicago.