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John Franklin Stephens

The following is a guest post in the form of an open letter from Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter after this tweet during last night’s Presidential debate.

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow.  So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.  I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you.  In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next.

Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.

Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are – and much, much more.

After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me.  You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.

Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.

No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.

Come join us someday at Special Olympics.  See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

A friend you haven’t made yet,
John Franklin Stephens
Global Messenger
Special Olympics Virginia

EDITOR’S NOTE: John has previously written powerful opinion pieces on the R-word. Read one here.

6,643 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Ann Coulter

  1. An amazing reply to a below the belt comment that should not be acceptable in 2012. John is an inspiration! Many without challenges could not have drafted such an eloquent reply.

  2. I want us to create “Ambassador to Compassion,” and you would be my vote as the first to fill the office. Your response is beautiful and well written. Mine is definitely not nearly as refined. You inspire me.

  3. Awesome, well articulated, heartfelt response!! You should wear your badge of honor proudly and hold your head higher than she could ever do with her bitter heart!!!!

  4. Bravo Mr. Franklin! I was once honored to coach a team of Special Olympian Powerlifters and aside from raising my own daughters, I can think of nothing in my life so rewarding.

    My cap is off to you.

    Your friend who you haven’t met yet,
    Steve Kubien
    Ajax, Ontario, Canada

  5. Your letter may have taken a while to pen, but you penned a beautiful, well thought out and thought provoking letter to an ignorant woman. You are much kinder to her than she was in her tweet and for that I give you much respect. (I don’t know that I would have been so nice). You are an amazing man and the perfect messenger. Well done! I would feel honored and blessed to be compared to and thought of being like you. (my favorite part of you letter)
    I will be re-blogging your letter on:dyannamc.blogspot.com

  6. What Coulter tweeted was very insensitive. But, you should check Mike Epps timeline @epps he used the hashtag #teamret***. Equally as vile.

    John you’re a good man, don’t let a Kennedy family member use you for political gain.

  7. john..you are obviously so much smarter than ann coulter will ever be. and more importantly you have a heart, a soul and obviously a compassionate nature….3 things i am sorry to say she seems to severely lack. i doubt you’ll ever hear back from her. she’s too busy being negative and destructive. you, on the other hand, just made my day and probably the day of thousands of others out here in cyberspace. THANK YOU for being who you are…and please just stay that way.

  8. This letter certainly makes the right point, but I don’t think you will touch her heart. There’s nobody home in there. But you have touched ours.

  9. Mr Stephens, I thank you for your response to Miss Coulter’s Remarks. You are an exemplary Human being. I for one hope that Miss Coulter takes you up on your offer to support the special Olympics and that those who comment on this article will do the same. Please continue to write articles, I will be sure to read them and share them.

  10. You are truly an amazing and special human being who has taught many of us who have read your letter a true lesson in humility except perhaps Ms Coulter. However if anyone could ever find or reach her heart you are one of the few who may stand a chance.

  11. Pingback: An awesome response to a horribly negative person. « Badass Chaplain

  12. I shared this beautiful, well-thought, brilliantly sarcastic letter on my FB wall. You are a person I would love to meet and I wish you well being a Global Ambassador for people with disabilities. You have certainly helped me understand what it feels like and I have grown from that. Thank you.

  13. Pingback: Ann Coulter Is A Fraud. At Least To Me, Anyways. « DeDeRants

  14. Brilliant and well thought out letter!! I commend you for rising above and for all the heart you have shown in your life – and for standing up for yourself and others!! Ann Coulter has no heart and has never thought about anyone but herself. I wish this would have an effect on her, but she has less heart and brain than a rock. She’s not nearly as warm as a rock either!! Kudos to you and all the other Special Olympians and people living with disabilities of any sort. Ms. Coulter is the one with the real disability…..

  15. Beautiful letter. You rarely see folks calling other people out for being as insulting, degrading and out-of-line as Coulter was in her tweet while staying so intensely compassionate and speaking from a place of knowledge rather than anger. If only the rest of political comment could look like this.

    • And you expected there would be in a piece called “An Open Letter to Ann Coulter” because…?

      Instead of bitterness and anger, try being compassionate. It’s not hard to do. You just have to think beyond your own petty prejudices and accept that there’s a big, wide world out there made up of people who don’t want to deal with anger and pain caused by a few narrow-minded bigots. Give it a try. You can do it.

  16. This brought tears to my eyes. Your response to something ugly was more eloquent and gracious than I could ever write. Good job, sir!

  17. I commend you for an extremely eloquent letter to a woman who clearly can’t deliver an intelligent argument against her rivals, a particular position or policy without using that word. You are brave and extremely smart. My 44-year-old brother also has Down Syndrome. Many of us have complained to her, but she just doesn’t care and keeps using that word. I hope that you will have an affect on her. Your letter is a lesson in kindness and respect. Thank you for having the courage to stand up and represent.

  18. Pingback: Worth Sharing: A Special Olympian Calls Out Ann Coulter’s Choice of Insults | Politics, Re-Spun

  19. While I appreciate your letter for what you are intending to message, anytime you begin writing negatives you *thought about* saying and claim to rise above saying it, well, you already said it. That is not rising above. It is much like negating the first part of a sentence by inserting, but. I’m sorry, but….

    We have a daughter who has lived 30 years with a syndrome that affects her globally. She does not function nearly as well as you do. I understand being offended. We must truly rise above.

    • Reread it. That is not what he said. The rising above it was his rising above the bullying to succeed in life. Bravo to him for his courage and persistence!

    • I’m not sure you got what he meant by “rose above;” he’s talking about rising above the bullying he received as a youth, not rising above drawing the inference that, by calling the President the r-word, perhaps Coulter meant to compare him to folks like the author.

      Also, I don’t see any negatives in this open letter at all. Read through it again and see if it reads a little different (I know, for me, in this age of break-neck information overload, I often misinterpret things the first time around).

    • I don’t think he intended to get an English lesson out of writing this letter. He spoke from his heart and he did it with dignity. He was simply telling someone to get educated before speaking hurtful words. Give the man some credit. 90% of us would not have spoken up and would have just been upset. If he was offended, then he was offended. It was hurtful towards HIM, whether she “meant” it or not. It is what people feel, not how everyone else perceives it. He has every right in this country to speak his mind so stop looking at how he wrote it, but WHAT he wrote. I think the point is being missed here. My little girl is 11 months and she is diagnosed with Down Syndrome I can only hope she has as much dignity as John does and stands up for herself when others are hurtful toward her.

    • The ‘it’ as a pronoun in this piece is referring to being bullied, not the thought process. The “rose above it” part is included in the thought, not a disclaimer.

    • I’m not sure of how well anybody’s child functions is relevant here. What Coulter said hurts all developmentally disabled people and those who care about us, and should be offensive to any decent human being.

      I get called “high-functioning” a lot, but the author of this piece has been far more civil, clear-headed, and concise in his response to Coulter than I could muster the ability to be.

  20. Wonderful letter. Unfortunately this brainless, souless woman is dead inside. She might be the only person not affected by this letter.

  21. Beautiful job, John! This letter is powerful, eloquent, and touching–unlike anything that comes out of Ann Coulter’s mouth. You inspire me. My baby boy has Down syndrome–he is only eight months old, but reading your letter and another article you wrote gives me so much optimism and hope for my Samuel’s future. Bless you, John–we need so many more people like you in this world!!

    • Your message is true and right john. Good job. Very very good job. I feel proud of you, and you made me feel good and hopeful. You are a great leader.

  22. Great reply, John! Waiting to see if Sarah Palin denounces Ann Coulter’s remarks…(of course not–conservatives can say whatever they want and other conservatives just pretend they didn’t hear it.)

    • Chester. I really don’t think this letter was written with the intent of denouncement from other people. I think Mr. Stephens was drawing attention to the use by Coulter (or anyone else who would choose their epithets so degradingly) Coulter, yes is conservative…. that is not the point here. I applaud Mr. Stephens for his eloquence.

  23. So beautifully written! We are so lucky to have someone in this world as intelligent as you who can speak up with such dignity. One can only hope Ms. Coulter can be more respectful when speaking next time and educate herself a little further before making herself look so unintelligent. My daughter who is 11 months was born with Down Syndrome and she has touched my life and my family’s lives in more ways than one. God Bless you John! Thank you for speaking up!

  24. If Coulter can defend a pig like Bill Maher her mind must be open enough to know when she’s hurt a blameless person. I’m hoping this gets straightened out soon.

  25. John, My daughter with MR is non-verbal. thank you for speaking so eloquently on behalf of yourself, my daughter, and people with developmental disabilities. -Deborah, mom to Carly

  26. Badge of honor, indeed. You tell her, John! (And I hope she will dignify your thoughtful letter with a response…but I doubt it.)

  27. Reblogged this on PScall 101 and commented:
    Sometimes we don’t think about the things we say. “You’re being retarded.”, “That’s so gay.”, the list goes on and on. We all, myself included, need to stop and think about what we’re saying and the actual connotations it has.

    “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

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