Special Olympics and Best Buddies Celebrate 7th Annual Spread the Word to End the Word® Day on March 4th
Pledge #Respect for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Washington, D.C. – 4 March 2014 – Special Olympics, Best Buddies, and supporters from around the world will unite today on the seventh annual Spread the Word to End the Word® Day to continue building awareness for society to stop and think about its use of the R-word and rally people around the world to pledge respect toward all individuals, making the world a more accepting and inclusive place for all people, especially those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Through engagement with schools, organizations and communities, the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign urges young people around the world to take a stand in their own communities and help change the conversation by eliminating the use of the R-word and replacing it with ‘respect.’ The campaign highlights the harmful effects the word “retard(ed)” has on the millions of people with IDD, their families and friends. Use of the R-word, “retard” or “retarded,” is hurtful and painful and, whether intended or not, is a form of bullying. Eliminating the use of this word is a step toward respect for all.
The Spread the Word to End the Word grassroots campaign was created in February 2009 by youth who participated in the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit, held in conjunction with the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Idaho. Led by Soeren Palumbo and Timbo Shriver (son of Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver), the campaign evolved out of a united passion to promote the positive contributions people with IDD make in communities around the world. It was combined with a simple call to action to take the pledge and inspired thousands of K-12 schools and universities across the country to hold rallies enlisting young people to take the pledge. To date, over 500,000 people have taken the pledge online to end the use of the R-word and millions more have signed banners and petitions throughout the world. This year, Spread the Word to End the Word supporters including the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation and WWE have activated their communities to engage around the day with pledge and employee engagement events.
“Today, we are hopeful that 30,000 more people around the country will join us and take the pledge to show #Respect for all individuals,” said Soeren Palumbo, co-founder of the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. “We have accomplished so much over the last seven years and want to continue to build a future of respect for people with IDD but need to encourage everyone around the country to not only pledge to end their use of the R-word, but to act in a way that creates a more inclusive world. If you are a student and see someone with IDD sitting alone at lunch, join him or her. If you are in the workplace and someone with IDD works for your organization and you have never spoken to him or her, reach out and start a conversation. If you are on the playing field, invite someone with IDD to kick a ball around with you. Show respect; but more than that, strive to be inclusive.”
What started as one single action of taking the pledge has evolved into communities across the world challenging others to talk, think and write with respect. A letter-writing campaign and social media blitz led by the Special Olympics Youth Activation Summit drew more attention to the campaign – as well as an apology – on American television host and political commentator Bill O’Reilly’s show after the R-word was used. More recently, Special Olympics athlete John Franklin Stephens led the charge via a blog post that went viral when pundit Ann Coulter lashed out with the word. Stephens received support from over 3 million people through social media in just a matter of days. Supporters from across the country were urging Stephens to ‘run for President!’ The F/X network now includes the R-word as one of three words that are not allowed to be broadcast. MTV has also embraced the campaign by bleeping out the R-word just like any other curse word or slur in shows like “The Real World” and “Teen Mom.” In 2010, a Maryland woman with an intellectual disability was the inspiration for Rosa’s Law. The bill, championed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyom.), garnered overwhelming support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Starting that year, federal agencies dropped the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” in federal health, education and labor laws and replaced them with “intellectual disability” — and as of this year, 48 states have passed similar legislation.
Through these and other important milestones, the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign has continued to advocate on behalf of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to work to make our society more inclusive. Special Olympics Project UNIFY®, in large part supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Education, is an education-based project that uses sports and education programs to activate young people to develop school communities where all youth are agents of change – fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics Project UNIFY® is built upon the premise that in order to have the greatest impact the change needs to start with young people. Project UNIFY is already in over 3,100 schools in 45 states across the country and many of those schools support Spread the Word to End the Word efforts through running pledge stations or holding student rallies to promote inclusion. Best Buddies International youth programs promote one-to-one friendship opportunities and leadership development in schools around the world, raising awareness and acceptance for people with IDD in their communities. With over 1,900 middle school, high school, and college chapters worldwide, the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign has become an integral part of the Best Buddies mission and showcases Best Buddies’ commitment to creating inclusive opportunities for people with IDD on a global level.
“Up to three percent of the world’s population has an intellectual disability – that’s almost 200 million people around the world – making it one of the largest disability populations on earth,” said Timbo Shriver, co-founder of the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. “This year we celebrate Spread the Word to End the Word Day knowing that 48 states across our country have passed legislation to remove the ‘R-word’ from their language, a significant step in building a future of respect and inclusion for all people. But we still have work to do at home and abroad – most countries have an ‘R-word’ in their language too. We need to do more and today; we ask that you do your part and more by visiting r-word.org and taking the pledge.”
Engage with us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/EndtheWord or Twitter at http://twitter.com/EndtheWord, so that we can reach our goal of gaining 30,000 tweets/re-tweets of the pledge in this year alone! Tweet this pledge today:
I pledge #Respect thru my words and actions. Will you? Pledge now to create communities of inclusion for people with ID r-word.org
We also want to use this year’s Spread the Word to End the Word awareness day as an opportunity to encourage more people to not only take the pledge, but to become part of our Movement. After taking the pledge, you may ask, now what? Share one of the below tweets with your followers:
After you pledge #Respect at r-word.org, carry the torch for respect in our #UnifiedRelay. Learn more: http://unifiedrelay.org
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 4.4 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than 1.3 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 81,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including the Christmas Records Trust, the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics, The Coca-Cola Company, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN, Lions Clubs International, Mattel, Microsoft, P&G, Bank of America, Essilor Vision Foundation, the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation, Finish Line, The Safeway Foundation, and Safilo Group. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter@specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics; youtube.com/specialolympicshq; Instagram.com/specialolympics and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.
About Best Buddies International
Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant organization that has grown from one original chapter to more than 1,900 middle school, high school, and college chapters worldwide. Today, Best Buddies’ eight formal programs — Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies®, Jobs, Ambassadors, and Promoters — engage participants in each of the 50 states and in over 50 countries, positively impacting the lives of more than 900,000 people with and without disabilities around the world. In many cases, as a result of their involvement with Best Buddies, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities secure rewarding jobs, live on their own, become inspirational leaders, and make lifelong friendships. For more information, please visit www.bestbuddies.org, www.facebook.com/bestbuddies, www.twitter.com/bestbuddies, or www.instagram.com/bestbuddies.