Everybody's talking about President Obama's insensitive remark about the Special Olympics. Last night on the Tonight Show, Obama said his poor bowling skills were "like the Special Olympics."
The Special Olympics released a statement, calling this a teachable moment. It reads:
President Obama called last night and expressed his regret and he apologized. He said that he did not intend to humiliate Special Olympics athletes or people with intellectual disabilities. He was sincere and heartfelt, and said that he is a fan of our movement and is ready to work with our athletes to make the United States a more accepting and welcoming country for all people with special needs.
Words hurt and words matter. Words can cause pain and result in stereotypes that are unfair and damaging to people with intellectual disabilities. And using Special Olympics in a negative or derogatory context can be a humiliating put-down to people with special needs.
Perhaps Obama's unfortunate statement will help start a conversation about how to dispel negative stereotypes tied to those with intellectual disabilities.