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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.

6,767 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Ann Coulter

  1. Pingback: Self-advocate, John Frank Stephens on the R-word | a typical son

  2. -My future daughter from Japan–Jessica Hiromi Kobayashi–has CP and I shudder at the R word because of every reason you listed. Another word I hate is “chink” because being Asian for that girl, Asians are also another minority (along with having cerebral palsy).
    -But Jessica Hiromi Kobayashi will do Paralympics Powerlifting using bench-press because of her intellectual disability.

  3. -http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/04/stop-calling-disabled-people-inspirational/: Mrs. Busby is NOT your inspiration; CP is what she has, not who she is.
    -Wippel (Miss) taught me I can’t treat Busby like she doesn’t understand just ’cause Mrs. Busby uses a cane; the cane is what helps Mrs. Busby walk.

  4. -No, Mrs. Busby is intellectually disabled, like Lennie; but she will go to CMU as a Chip in Mt. Pleasant, MI for a PhD despite her spina bifida (that’s why she’ll get an Invacare cane because she’s physically handicapped).
    -Mrs. Busby has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, meaning she has CP affecting her from the face down. She’s very bright; her IQ (what she knows) is 140.

  5. -My teacher, Mrs. Busby, has Cerebral Palsy and I now realize not to label Mrs. Busby just because she also has Mild Epilepsy as well. Mrs. Busby is not stupid; nor is she an idiot; she just processes information more slowly; she’s just slow at understanding.

  6. My brother recommended I might like this blog. He was totally right.
    This put up actually made my day. You can not imagine simply how so much time I had spent for this information!
    Thank you!

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  8. Stunning. Thank you, Mr. Stephens for your response to Ann Coulter. Perfect tone, spot on. So glad you wrote this – for Coulter, yourself, your friends and family, and for each and every one of us – we need to read and listen to your message. Most sincere thanks.

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  15. I would like to have Mr. John Franklin Stephens’ email address (not his Facebook page). I would like to contact him, please. Thanking you kindly,
    Sarah Sander
    Down Syndrome Amongst Us magazine

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  19. You’re my Hero’s
    Never give up, always laugh
    Fall down – get up
    Do over – Do over – Do
    Profound determination

    Thank you💗 #tanka

  20. Beautiful letter… Thank you John Franklin Stephens for being a meteoric view and inspiring example of compassion which walks in the earth. I am grateful for your gentle reminder.

  21. I respect you for everything you have done and have opened my eyes to a whole new world and appreciate everything you have done to the community. I have a new found love for all the disabled and handicap people in the world. Thank you for that

  22. Dear Mr. Stephens, I applaud you for responding with grace and tact as well as insight. I myself am hopping mad, not only at her initial comment, but at the comments she’s made since – even after reading your letter – in which she shamefully defends her insensitive and ignorant remark. This letter reveals your character just as her words reveal hers: she is a bully, and you are a hero.

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  25. I have been blessed a few times in my life to volunteer at Special Olympics. I was surrounded by the most beautiful people I’ve met in my life. Thank you for taking me back to happy times!

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  30. what a beautiful heart you have. it is tragic that so much hate can be in an individual such as miss coulter. thank you for reminding us what love is about.

  31. John Franklin Stephens: Thank you so much for your thoughtful and compelling response to Ms. Coulter’s remark. Nothing more needs to be said, you have taken the high road and hopefully Ms. Coulter and others will begin to realize the impact that their words have. Keep up your great work! Barry Metayer

  32. Dear Mr Stephens

    Thank you so much for this. You sir are an inspiration. I’m on the other side of the world in Australia and I was deeply touched when I read this. It is honest, wise and beautifully expressed. Your generous spirit shines through and I’m impressed that you responded to what she said firmly but without being judgmental or attacking her. What she said was dreadful but your response was something of beauty. I wish you all the best in life.

    Fond regards
    Victoria Crone

    • Thank you- you’ve put it far better than I ever could! My brother has Down’s Syndrome and I shudder at the r word because of every reason you listed. My feeling was anger towards her but after reading your post its ambivalence that she will never understand all the achievements made by people who are differently able.

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