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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.

6,713 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Ann Coulter

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  2. Good man! Very well said. It is a lazy, ignorant attempt at an insult and you responded with great wit and wisdom. Thank you. My brother has DS as well, and has taught me so much about the important things in life. I have never been so impressed by sportsmanship, endeavour and humanity than when I watched him and his fellow athletes compete in the 1996 Special Olympics in Sheffield, UK. I salute you for your willingness to speak out against ignorance and prejudice, and I wish you a happy, fulfilling future.

  3. First, I absolutely agree that Anne Coulter should NOT have used that outdated word as it perpetuates a negative stigmatism on people with mental disabilities. However, this letter written by “John Franklin Stephens” was clearly NOT written by John Franklin Stephens, and I resent this for two reasons: First, It took a simple meaningful issue and devalued it by its obviously political overtones. If John himself had simply spoken from the heart about how this word is hurtful to people, it would have made more of an impact, probably even to Anne Coulter herself, as well as the public at large. But instead it became a political statement that really took away from the issue of the R-word. Second, I hate the exploitation that occurred here. I’m sure John doesn’t express himself this way. I’m sure his feelings are more honest and heartfelt than this letter portrays, so shame on the people who are using him. I have a 24 year old son with DS who also participates in Special Olympics. If someone exploited him in such a way there would be trouble.

    • And how do you know this was not written by John Stevens? Do you think him incapable of writing/thinking/understanding intelligently? You are as narrow minded as Ann Coulter. Dispicable YOU!

  4. You rock! That’s the best and most thoughtful response I’ve ever read in response to someone who probably doesn’t deserve your thoughts and your time, but it needed to be said, and I thank you for doing so.

  5. Wow! Who does this lady think she is! How dare her to use the “R” word. That’s very wrong. I’m sure she wouldn’t like to be called a Honky, white trash…..I’m in disbelief, my brother has down syndrome. This lady needs to realize how hurtful this word is. Does anyone think that a down syndrome individual asked to be born with that extra chromosome? No….. But God gave it to them because they are gifts from him for special, kind hearted people to raise….. Just like my parents. I hope this lady apologizes for what she’s said because this word is very hurtful for everyone

  6. Wow! Who does this lady think she is! How dare her to use the “R” word. That’s very wrong. I’m sure she wouldn’t like to be called a Honky, white trash…..I’m in disbelief, my brother has down syndrome. This lady needs to realize how hurtful this word is. Do anyone think that a down syndrome individual asked to be born with that extra chromosome? No….. But God gave it to them because they are gifts from him for special, kind hearted people to raise….. Just like my parents. I hope this lady apologizes for what she’s said because this word is very hurtful for everyone

  7. You sir replied to her idiotic remark with more education and insight that she’s appears to have. In fact I don’t think Paul Harvey, God rest his soul could have said it any better. Bravo!

  8. This bigot (Ann Coulter) should be ashamed of herself. But wait, you have to have a conscious to be feel shame. Well let me say it….”SHAME ON YOU ANN COULTER”. Having a ‘special needs’ family member and seeing the cruelty that they have to deal with on a daily basis in unthinkable. They are the most loving and giving people on earth. They are so far above haters like you.

  9. Spot ON, sir! You are a true gem. You had the perfect, tasteful response to a very nasty person, and that is hard to come by. I absolutely LOVE this letter! We need to use you as an example for how we should take more time to think about our reactions to people. If we did that, we’d all be a lot happier. Thank you for everything you said!

  10. Good for you Mr. John Franklin Stephens. YOU should run for public office. I’d vote for you. It is a blessing in disguise to think slower and speak slower because you can do it with consideration for others.

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  12. I love this open letter to Ms. Coulter. Perfectly eloquent, don’t know how it could have been said any better. Thank you for being a champion, not just of those with Down syndrome, but for anyone who’s made to feel bullied. You’re one classy fella!

  13. John Franklin Stephens …you are one helluva man! Your words are so powerful and so meaningful! THRILLED you spoke up! So proud! Would love to have you as my friend!

  14. Shame on her!
    & good for John Franklin Stevens. Love these guys. & will only watch FOX for NFC games. I used to say we get our comedy from FOX & News from the Comedy Channel. No comedy here. Ann Coulter should be banned from all media outlets.

  15. I now have a new hero in my life. You are an amazing person and an asset not just for the Special Olympics but for all of the human race.
    Thank you John Franklin Stephens for being you.

  16. Dear Mr. Stephens,
    Based upon Ms. Coulter’s track record of having repeatedly demonstrated limited cerebral agility in processing concepts that differ from her own belief systems and/or agenda, I do not know if your brilliant, spot on, wise entreaty will appeal to her sense of honor and dignity. Not because you didn’t write it perfectly, but rather, because I fear she may lack the qualities of honor and dignity. But you never know: Perhaps you’ll be the one who helps her see the light.
    Most kindly, respectfully, and with gratitude,
    Wendy Leonard, PhD, MPH

  17. #DisableTheLabel #SpeakingForOurselves

    THIS PROVES THAT PEOPLE WITH INTERLECTUAL DISABILITIES HAVE POWER AND A VOICE.

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  19. Sadly Down’s syndrome does that entitle you to special privileges when it comes expressing your opinion publicly. First rule of being a public figure for EVERYONE includes not having a THIN skin!

    • I think Mr Stephens response was entirely appropriate! What gives a public figure like Ann Coulter free reign to insult not only Mr Stephens but millions of other fine Americans when she no doubt is aware she is using a derogatory slur?

      And quite frankly, if she can dish it out then she better be able to take it. Apparently she thought she could get away with picking on people she judged unable to defend themselves. Clearly she was mistaken.

  20. “Ouch!” Was my snarkey biting reaction. Then I read what John Franklin Stephens wrote. WOW! That is one of the most impressive and heartfelt / heart moving works of art I ever read! Has this guy got room for another friend?

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