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.

6,801 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Ann Coulter

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  2. I guess Anne’s response would be something like, “Oh, don;t be so oversensitive, get over it. You must be a liberal..blah blah blah.” Yeah, that sounds about right.

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  13. You may need to talk to you for 15 minutes! This will take you directly to their parents and uncles and aunts
    and want to try out the latest released DVD. That’s when I began to find a normal, scientific explanation for it. It can be easy to use, I let my daughters hand.

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    • This has already been brought up several times and addressed. If you want to be outraged over something Obama has done, start with NDAA, not the non starter “news” of him referring to himself as being a Special Olympics bowler. Your partisan politics is tired. And in case you think this is liberal talk, I’m a member of the Libertarian Party.

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  19. Ann Coulter simplistically defines the American people as ‘takers’ and makers’. She presumably sees herself in the later category, but I would argue that she has taken more than most people, and has ‘made’ nothing but hateful, poorly written books. She is a horrible human being that should be exiled to another planet. Preferably one based on intolerance to people such as her.

  20. I try to be an even participant in the challenges of life. I am a progressive with deeply held views when discussing what is ‘right and wrong’. But I also know that I need to understand the varied positions of the world at large if I am going to find my own own way forward. I have made too many mistakes in life to discount others’ position at any time. Unless they are fans of the KKK or supremist groups. I have to be honest and say ‘here I draw the line’.

    We all make grammarical errors, we all find some confusion in our arguments, we all find, in the darkness of late night the lessor of ourselves than what we wished never lived in our souls. It is simply life that makes us all equal human beings. While the outside world views me in a certain way because of the manner with which I portray myself, I know that I am not the person others might perceive me as such. In fact, if I can take this opportunity to apologize to Kristine, I can be a real a**hole at times. Yet I am generally perceived as a lover of all men/women/animals etc.

    I guess what I am trying t say is there is an educational element to what everyone is discussing. And there is a lack of tolerance as well. On one hand there are many people who could not bear the addition of a challenged newborn into their household. I am being blunt about this and I know many will not like what I say. But we, as individuals, cannot begin to understand everyone’s circumstances. I know, that one time when I became pregnant, there was no way I could manage the situation…and it had nothing to do with a potentially challenged child coming into our very difficult world. It had nothing to do with my personality or attitude about life. It had everything to do with my own personal challenges that I do not believe is anybodys’ business. I have been in high tech for over 25 years and the ‘requirement’ to bare ones’ soul to a host of strangers is ludicrous. It’s a frightening way for people to find personal empowerment. This entire trend of having to tell everyone personal details of our lives in order to be accepted.

    If it matters to all reading this, I have the ‘qualifications’ to have an opinion. I myself was a premature baby with some horrible birth defect issues and expected to arrive ‘DOD’. Some of my close cousins were born with both mental and physical birth defects…they never reduced the amount of love I wanted to spray apon them. But, when I hear the negativity and ignorance of Ann Coulter, someone who whether or not has any formal degree, I of course get insane. I bound across our living room spewing to my equally progressive hubby, the injustices and horror of the world we are living in…and he listens and asks me what I am going to do about it.

    And that is what we must all say to ourselves, in my mind. Are we going to do more than write on a blog, insult our own peers, and vehmently qualify our differences? I don’t have the answers to this. I know it all just makes me afraid of where life in current society is taking us.

    No matter what we ‘say’ or ‘write’ many of us don’t do enough ‘doing’. Coulter, that ignorant person, has probably given nothing to society, to the people in need, even out of curiosity. She, may not have contributed to any organization designed to leverage intelligence, knowledge, and understanding – and god forbid, contributed to any ‘left’ oriented organization. I am assuming she simply prays to the altar of who best reflects her own self-worth. But we have to look inside our own souls. What have we done to encourage understanding of the entire mentally challenged community? We have this amazing bully pulpit but how many of us are getting off our butts to actually insititue change and understanding?

    So, the Coultures of the world are a group of people ready to take us not only backwards, but take us to a state of fear and laothing of those who are different, regardless of the wondrous positives they can bring to bear. We can’t really change that. What we can do is offer up our own abilities to counter it all. To show what is right, what is real and what is important to this great land we occupy…because we do not ‘own’ it. We are passengers on a short but hopefully sweet ride. We can either sit in judgement or make a difference. I usually do both – judge and try to make a difference LOL.

    I do not know what caused me to write this response but maybe it’s because I see in myself, so much of both sides. I can be a truly judgemental b*tch but I also know that, according to many and maybe myself, that I can be of true and honest genorisity; I thank my mom and maternal side of the house for this. Anyway, I guess what I have been trying to say is that Coulter’s remarks are ignorant, upsetting, and really pretty disgraceful all around. But it is her choice to say what she has to say and our response, IMHO, should be leading by example. That’s what my mom and grandma taught me. Solid french canadian types. Words are cheap, they would tell me, but eamples are rich in their ability to create change.

    Much love to all, especially to those folks in Special Olympics, who I love dearly. And thank you for this opportunity to give my views. Please contact me if I can do anything to help the cause. Hugs, Lydia

  21. Hi sir/madam
    iam a kenyan athlete,i would like you to assist me to join with you as friendship.iam waiting your reply

  22. Mr John Franklin Stephens….Global Messenger, Indeed. And if you believe…John is like an arch angel type. God sent. He doesn’t see life as a struggle, a cross, poor, R word. I admire his bravery and we are similar…Like John, I try to reach out with love…and I will always tell the truth. I’m an actor and author. I am NOT a novelist. I can come on strong…but, I call out praise for the good…and I reveal the bad stuff some people do, plan…or say. John, The SPECIAL Olympics has “special” in the title because of all the beautiful people like you, As Americans, I wish I could nominate you somehow to teach us love, truth…and life’s meaning. Love one another, after all we’re all we’ve got. John, never stop or have anyone stop you from your gift. WE all need someone to put strong, intelligent, outspoken, truth seeking, educators full of love, compassion with a daily miracle to witness.
    I also have to say, I grew up with my sister Patti. Patti was ‘special’ too. Yes, her abilities were different than the ones people, including myself, take for granted.

    There are many stories on my Miracle sister. I held her with my arms around her, whispering love, The Blessed Mother, Angels…and hot guys in Heaven…be not afraid…I’ll be there with you…in God’s time…don’t be afraid. The last whisper of her breath slipped from her lips…and with The Angels of Passage…The great rush of energy…life, love, truth, belief, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE…grasped all of us…and as the last trace of Patti, in an Earth Bound Body…left 100s of people that came and went all day…we lost our breath, we held each other…I was so honored to hand her back to the love from which she became, the love in which she lived her life…and the love she left…and the love she took with her.

    From that day forward…I have never been the same.
    Patti chose Love, Smiles, Simplicity…although she couldn’t walk, talk, get a cool haircut, kiss a boyfriend…go get an ice cream….etc…

    She had a wise mind…she knew the differences…but, she chose to live her life as it should be…a blessing, a gift…and loving loving loving.
    I no longer take any beat of my heart for granted.
    Two major miracles…
    She was my greatest teacher, my Mom and Nana Mac took her every other week to Pennsylvania for experimental treatments…..The Catholic Women’s Group all attended the training in Pennsylvania and to this day, I cannot visit my hometown without bumping into an old Irish Catholic woman that volunteered and believed in my sister Patti.
    She was given about an 8 year life expectancy…she would be gone before Puberty.
    The love and belief and The Unconditional Love…from Ma, Nana Mac, The Catholic Women, Dad…etc…she confirmed my belief in NOT believing in Statistics…

    She lived at home until she needed breathing and feeding tubes…her body fought infections…she must have lived in bodily pain…but, she was very un jaded…I know she didn’t believe or succumb to pain….it wasn’t her mission.

    Sorry…I could talk about my sister forever but, for people that believe ignorance is bliss…and arrogance is cool and trendy…that is all sooooo passé now.
    My website is http://jameshillisford.com
    or Google for my stories on Huffington Post, CNN, The Patch etc…Also, I’m on a show with my best friend, working with the Star of the Too Close For Comfort TV series, Ted Knight of Mary Tyler Moore fame co star…The always beloved blonde, Lydia Cornell. On The Celebrity Channel.

    John…it’s people like you…that keep me here…love and be kind to each other is your lesson…and it will come in handy….You just never know when you’re entertaining angels…

    James Hillis Ford
    Actor, Author, Political Pundit Charitable TV spokesman, Co Star Lydia and Friends. Live, Raw and Uncut.

    My voice can be louder than the ones people have silenced…I can speak on their behalf.
    My Nana Mac’s favorite lesson taught to me as a kid…

    “Jimmy, in life people will slam the door in your face. Just because they think THEY can. If you know in your heart and soul that you belong on the other side of that slammed door…and you can’t find a way in because the door is locked by people that think they are better than you…Say a little prayer for your nerves…Then turn around and kick the damn door down.

    • Parents who raise children with Down’s Syndrome face challenges that most parents don’t. For many it is also an incredibly rewarding experience that other parents will never know. That does not mean everyone is cut out for it. Every child deserves to be raised with the special attention they need to thrive, and if a parent feels unable to give that, it is up to them to choose an alternative. I doubt that decision is ever made lightly, let alone hatefully. Please think before making such harsh, public judgments. If someone who has been in that position read your comment, it could cause them a lot of pain. Perhaps you don’t care, but if that isn’t hatred, I don’t know what is.

  23. I have a grandson who was born with Down Syndrome and he is the most loveable person you could ever meet. He is by no means a R-word, he is very intelligent and very caring. Life would be so empty without having him around, he is the best.

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  28. I find the letter truly inspiring not just because that man overcame so much and still has the the spirit to express his true feelings, but more than anything the part of his letter that stands out to me most is that he never takes the attitude that she is a bad person for saying what she did but simply wants her to join him in a fight against hatred, well done and dont lose your spirit.

    wyatt baker,
    age 15,

  29. I struggle with a slight learning disability (so did Albert Einstein), so technically you could say that I learn more slowly than most people. Mine is reading-based; I don’t what Einstein’s was. Anyway… where do we draw the line at which we call it ‘special needs’ and/or ‘retarded’? I went to a school for students with learning disabilities, so, on some level, you could say that I was somewhat of a special needs student. Like I said, where do we actually draw the line at which we would say “truly special needs”, as if that’s a real thing. Do we go by the rankings and levels of these rankings of certain diagnoses?

    The negative perception of this word is nothing but a choice. People make a CONCIOUS CHOICE to be offended by this word. They are choosing to see it as negatively referring to someone with special needs. You don’t have to be offended if you don’t want to be. Society tells us to be offended by it, and so people hop on that wagon. Why aren’t people going crazy about the word ‘stupid’? Maybe some people are, but you KNOW there a millions of people who are okay with the word ‘stupid’, but not okay with the word ‘retard’. And don’t tell me it’s because the archaic word for people with certain diagnoses is ‘retarded’, because the word ‘moron’ is, as well. And again, there are MILLIONS of people who are okay with the word ‘moron’, but not okay with the word ‘retard’. Ever think about that?

    I’m not PROMOTING the use of the word, I just think it’s silly to make an entire campaign and website on this topic. I’m just saying that you make your own choices in life, and you don’t have to be all upset about the use of the word ‘retard’ if you don’t WANT to be.

    Thank you and goodnight.

  30. Pingback: An Open Letter to Ann Coulter « A Life Most Ordinary

  31. Special Olympics is bullshit, because of the fact that they some event in track & field called the softball throw, which is a wonderful event to intentionally lose at, and yes it would make me feel great that I lost on purpose! Now I am not saying this in defense of Ann Coulter, however I want people stop being complacent about how it just happens to be that everything is made out sound better than it really is when it comes to what the Special Olympics is when you get down to brass tax!

    • George Arnold:
      First off, watch your language. Secondly, you must not be special needs because you would not have said what you said about the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics does not have just track and field event, this organization has over 32 Olympic style individual and team sports. With some modification in the rules to allow the athletes to be able to compete in them. But for the most part Special Olympics follows the normal rules.
      These athletes train hard and they learn skills that when in school they may never learn, because no one allows them to take part. These athletes also learn valuable life skills through the Special Olympics and I am very grateful for that.
      I am an athlete here in North Carolina and I compete in Basketball and Tennis. I not only play but I coach and Officiate Bocce and Volleyball. Through their Leadership program I am a Global Messenger.
      I am sorry if in your past that someone offended from the Special Olympics, but Ann Coulter offended a group of people and no one has that right. So we are standing up to what she said and AS AMERICANS , WE HAVE THAT RIGHT.


      By the way, I will take you on any day in the softball throw, if that how you feel about that event.

      • Ann Coulter did not offend a group of people; A group of people were offended by Ann Coulter. Each individual is responsible for their own actions and feelings. Was Coulter’s comment rude and inappropriate? Personally, I would say so, yes. But Coulter, like any other individual, does “[have] that right”. I’m not excusing Coulter, nor am I excusing George Arnold, but you can’t expect people to respect you or the point you’re trying to make unless you can also speak with respect. The thing is, people are people, and as people, we can’t expect everyone to be the same, let alone share the same opinions or expectations.

        Warmest regards,
        Matt Blauvelt
        Former Best Buddies Chapter President

        P.S. Good luck in the softball throw.

    • Mr. Arnold,
      Special Olympics is about changing attitudes and helping individuals, like you, understand that every individual has value and worth and deserves love and respect — even individuals like yourself who have not yet grasped the whole concept of Special Olympics — which is about attitude.
      I challenge you to participate in a Special Olympics event and just observe. Your angst (coming from fear) will melt to acceptance and probably joy. These Special Olympians have much to teach us.
      You have to experience it to get it. And, I hope you do.

    • First, George, let me help you out a bit. The idiom is “get down to brass tacks.” The rest of your comment is riddled with grammatical errors and at times makes little to no sense. If you are going to leave a hateful and boorish comment, at least let a friend read through it before you post it for the world to see. Second, I have no idea where your hatred of the Special Olympics stems from. It is beyond bizarre. Is it a general hatred of those with special needs? And finally, this letter is not specifically regarding the Special Olympics. You have completely missed the point. It is in response to Ann Coulter’s offensive and ignorant use of the word “retarded” as an insult in a tweet. Please reread Mr. Stephens letter until you finally comprehend what it is concerning. I have a strong feeling that, that is not possible for you so my second word of advice is to NEVER again comment on a public forum. Do it for your own good. You have made a fool of yourself in numerous ways.

      • Matt’s got a good point. I’m not condoning Ann Coulter’s use of the word, but she does technically have the right to say it, as a US citizen. Maybe Ann Coulter uses the R word out of ignorance, but it’s just as likely that she uses it because she’s Ann Coulter, and Ann Coulter tends to say a lot of things that many people find offensive.

    • First of all, Arnold, you are being extremely rude, offensive, and discriminative towards Special Olympics, which you do not have the right to do because obviously you have not been around Special Olympics at all and have any idea what it is about. Special Olympics is about inclusion, acceptance, and confidence of people with disabilities in modern society. Your comment defiles Stephen’s argument because you are being discriminative towards Special Olympics, which in turn is being discriminative towards people with disabilities. Stephens is trying to show the world that people with disabilities are extraordinary people and do not deserve negative recognition for it. You also seem to not understand that Special Olympics is not just a competition where people only want to win and be number one, no, Special Olympics is a confidence booster and shows people with disabilities that they matter. Harmful comments like yours can potentially make people lean towards the negative side of the argument, which does nothing to Stephens’ purpose of the letter. Let’s try and see the positive side of life here. A later comment posted by an Emily Kahle is an excellent example of what Stephens is trying to show people. She is directly supporting the letter and showing people life in her shoes. Her brother is an amazing person and just because he has a disability that does not mean he does not matter or deserves negative recognition for it from people like you, Arnold. People with disabilities are some of the best people in the world and I feel sorry for you because you will never experience that with your bad attitude.

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