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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.

6,830 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Ann Coulter

  1. Thank you. Your letter to Coulter was inspiring.Hopefully she will learn of it and have the good grace to apologize. I hate Obama but would never use the r-word. Cheers.

  2. This is such an excellent response, and really honestly made my day. I am a 31 year old autistic person, and I was not so much offended at her suggestion that Obama could be someone like me, but rather than she apparently thought that being someone like me was something bad, which clearly it isn’t. Thank you for writing this, and I will continue to share it.

  3. Pingback: An Open Letter to Ann Coulter | Lila McGrew

  4. John, You make all Americans proud with your commitment to the Special Olympics and with your very proper answer to ignorance and hatefulness. You rock!

  5. Hey John, I like Ann Coulter alot, everyone mis speaks and sometimes does not realize who it actually hurts…You wrote an excellent letter to her and I’m sure an apology is comming….it would be great if she would show up an help with the special Olympics…she is a good person and I know she did not mean to hurt you…. God Bless and keep up the good work!

    • Ann Coulter has never misspoke in her entire career, nor has she ever apologized. Coming to this page and writing that you like her is insulting to everyone she’s ever been hateful to.

    • I like your sincerity Mark! Unfortunately, I feel that perhaps Ms Coulter says things like this for very specific reasons. As John mentioned, she is not dumb, by any means. Her career has shown that making inflammatory remarks is her bread and butter and her popularity has sprung from those who feel included in her club through derisive comments. She did not “mis speak”. She made a very calculated decision to say something so hurtful. And she, as a very bright, well educated and sophisticated person, KNEW who she was hurting/insulting. But she chose not to care.

    • Ann Coulter is NOT a nice person. She’s a snarky a..hole. She never says anything nice about anyone. How can you like her?

  6. A well written response that Ms. Coulter doesn’t deserve. However, I suppose some good can come from terrible tweets like hers, in that it provides a good forum for folks like John to publicly correct biases and educate to a larger audience. Indeed, I probably would not have come to this blog if this hadn’t been posted on social media in response to that tweet.

    • Yup, totally and completely awesome and you have something else: character and that’s what Anne Coulter is telling us is she doesn’t have it. Maybe you could tutor her?

    • Excuse me? Way to fight rudeness with more rudeness, Ernie. I am a conservative; my sister, who has Down’s Syndrome, is also a conservative. Many of our friends and family members are also conservative. Ann Coulter represents us in no way through her use of this slur. Insinuating that she does is as absurd as claiming that your lofty opinion is an excellent representation of the Democratic party.

      Both parties are guilty of mudslinging and otherwise inappropriate speech and behaviour. Why don’t we take an example from John Franklin Stephens and try to promulgate love and understanding rather than hatred?

  7. I am speechless after reading your letter. Profoundly thoughtful, generous of heart and beautifully written. I count myself as one of your friends you have yet to meet. Proud of you!

  8. John and John’s Dad. I just want to say that I appreciate the eloquence of speech and the quiet dignity in which you have written about this topic. Presented this way can only touch the deepest part of those too ignorant and prideful of themselves to understand the hurt that is created behind such unthoughtful insults. I too was called names like “retard” and “four eyes” by some who only gain confidence when putting others down. It takes great strength and honor in oneself to overcome the self confidence and emotional issues that arise with these types of remarks. If only those that speak so unthoughtfully could be put in the shoes of their target could then see the err of their ways. Like you John I’ve spent time overcoming many challenges in the face of adversity and like you I am a unique person that will never give up. John I applaud you in your continuing efforts to speak for so many and pray that the dignity and pride in who you are continues to shine through in your messages. You now have 1 more friend in me take care and thanks for having a dignity and patience that I sometimes lack when trying to get others to understand.

  9. John, I would just like to add my thanks for this beautifully written response to one who is so devoid of thought for anyone but herself and the attention (positive or negative) that she can get. Bravo to you.

  10. John, thank you so much for your articulate letter to Ms. Coulter. Unfortunately, people who haven’t any understanding of what it is like to have a disability general speak out of utter ignorance and some amount of fear of what they don’t understand. Thank you for holding your head up high and speaking up for many who don’t have your wonderful gift of clarification. Having my daughter Amanda, ( who is 28 with Down’s Syndrome) was one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given, as it gave me the gift of understanding. You are awesome, keep speaking up…. !! And Ms. Coulter, shame on you for your ignorance and insensitive comments. I hope the next time you decide to spout off with your venemous comments, you will stop to think about some of the people you might be insulting OTHER THAN the political party/individual to whom you may be referring to… Whomever a person chooses to vote for is of course their choice, nothing you or anyone else can say will change that fact. You, however CHOSE to ASSUME that people with disabilities have NO CONCEPT of how derogatory you this word is…I assume you are an intelligient woman, choose your words more wisely next time make sure you are not insulting individuals who would never consider DELIBERATELY hurting you or anyone else

  11. This is just about the best response to her comments I could have imagined. I’m sorry you had to write this, but oh so glad you did. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

  12. Seems that Ms. Coulter with her R statement and Mr. Obama with his Special Olympics remark show us that maybe it is our so called leaders and public figures in need of enlightenment! Most of us in the spectator stands know, love and respect any accomplishment.

  13. Wow John, You are so smart. This is an amazing artilcle. I usually don’t leave comments. But I could not help expressing my amazement at this great peice of writing.

  14. What a beautifully written, eloquent response to such an ignorant and hateful person. I shared it on my facebook page and hope many people will see what a wonderfully accomplished writer you are! I am the mother of a 20-year old, special need daughter, and I couldn’t have written it any better than you did. Thank you for representing special needs people everywhere!

  15. John – very nice. Did you defend Sarah Palin? I am assuming you did, afterall, she and her family continues to be attacked for having downs syndrome child.

  16. Thank you for shining a light. I’m embarrassed for her and saddened by her ignorant remarks. Hopefully one of these days she’ll think about who she might be offending before she speaks. Maybe she can learn a lesson here – one we would all benefit from because it’s so easy for us to make the same mistake, wittingly or unwittingly.

  17. John, you are now officially my HERO. I have struggled to find one during this election process. Now I have found one. Thank you!k

  18. Pingback: An Open Letter to Ann Coulter | Beyond the Stacks | Scoop.it

  19. Bless you John. Such a well written response! Thank you for speaking for my three beautiful children; Ricky, 21 year old man with Down syndrome, Alexandra 18 year old woman with Autism and Tiffany, 17 year old woman with Down syndrome and Autism!!!!

  20. I admire Mr. Stephens tenacity in trying to change our world to make it better for everyone. I have sent out a message to my friends to please donate to Special Olympics Florida in the name of “Evil Ann Coulter”. I in no way want to promote negativity of any sort. This is a small way to show that her language is not acceptable and show her that we will unite to preserve the good name of many people that she seems proud to exploit.

  21. wonderful!
    i have a special needs son and it grates on my nerves so much when people use the R-word.
    I have tried explaining to people that it’s an actual medical diagnosis not an insult and shouldn’t be used as an insult but people just don’t seem to get it, or they don’t care. it’s really sad.

    • It’s not a medical diagnosis, but a legal one. Until the Penal Code removes it as a justification to eliminate the death penalty in certain circumstances, you will never see it gone completely….although we are making progress. Schools are removing it from Special Education paperwork, in lieu of “intellectually and/or developmentally delayed”

  22. Pingback: The R-Word « Team Turner

  23. This is everything I’ve tried to explain to people who use the r-word, but said so much better than I’ve ever been able to say it. I’m going to get as many people as I possibly can to read your post.

  24. Thank you, John. Your letter to Ann Coulter was inspiring. It seems as though I am continually trying to educate people about the negative impact of using the r-word and at times, I get discouraged about the level of ignorance in our society regarding it’s use. But your letter has encouraged me to continue the fight against the use of the r-word. Thank you for picking me up, dusting me off, and setting me back on the path to raising awareness. May God bless you richly.

  25. Wow, John. You were able to respond with compassion and understanding while most would simply be bitter and retaliate with more hate. This just proves you right when you said “that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.” And I love the way you signed off “A friend you haven’t made yet.” Keep up the good work: I feel like we are winning the fight on the R-word, just like the N-word and the 3 or 6 letter F-word.

  26. Thank you so much for being a voice for our children who don’t have a voice. What an amazing individual you are!

  27. I am the parent of a Special Olympian. He is 29, has a job and a wonderfully fulfilling life. Your words are eloquent and right on! Thank you and God Bless You!

  28. John, thank you for your well thought response. I hope the ignorant person behind that tweet can learn something from you…she needs it. Thank you again for standing up and representing so well my 10 year old son with Down syndrome…from Panama City, Panama.

  29. What a well written response, I would not have been so kind. However, I think the first comment was unnecessary. Eleanor you did not need to clarify who you were voting for your missing the point told us all without the clarification. Once again God bless you John and the trials you are faced with.

  30. As a single parent caregiver of an adult daughter with Aspergers (who was heavily involved in Special Olympics in high school and is now a recipient of day services), I have absolutely no tolerance for the R word. I think Ms. Coulter owes an apology to you, John!

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