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Mom of Special Needs Child Sounds Off

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A mother of a child with special needs reacts to Obama's gaffe on "The Tonight Show."

Barack obama, jay leno

Psychiatrist Dr. Eva Ritvo: As a mother of a daughter with cerebral palsy and a long-time Special Olympics supporter, I was disappointed by what happened on "The Tonight Show." I think President Obama's comment was really unfortunate, and contributes to negative stereotypes.

It's unfortunate when people make comments that hurt people on the other end. Sometimes things come out in humor that would be better left unsaid. People with special needs often experience social isolation and ostracization.

Words should be used to create good in this world. All people should avoid words that could be hurtful. But everybody makes mistakes. We will forgive Barack Obama for this, and we will watch carefully to see how he will help with those more needy in our society.

The Special Olympics should not be mocked in any fashion. It's an extraordinary accomplishment to be chosen to participate in the Special Olympics. Participants enjoy camaraderie, and it gives them an opportunity to shine. They experience a sense of accomplishment and success

It's all about tolerance. That's been the beauty of Barack Obama -- he's taught us that we can reach any lofty goal we set for ourselves. That's what's been so refreshing about him up to now.

Who knows? Maybe there will even be a president in the future with special needs. After all, FDR was one of our best presidents.

This was an unfortunate slip of the tongue, but hopefully something good can come out of it. Maybe it will raise awareness. We need to be sensitive to people with special needs, and more acceptance of diversity of all kinds.

We hope that President Barack Obama will in fact pay attention to these special children and special adults.


next: "A Helmet Might Have Saved Her Life"
14 comments so far | Post a comment now
cyndi March 21, 2009, 8:31 AM

While I don’t think that obama said this to specifically hurt people, I do think it’s more of his lack of respect for human life coming to the fore. He needs to realize that the stage he’s on now is VERY public, and everything he says has the potential to do good or damage. This was a very insensitive remark to our precious population of disabled who already have mountains to climb.

littlepeapie March 21, 2009, 8:43 AM

I agree, I do forgive him…He is only human and we’ve all said things that we’ve immediately regretted.

Anonymous March 21, 2009, 9:31 AM

I think Shriver and the Special Olympics should be thanking Obama over this gaffe. The organization got TONs of publicity — that frankly wasn’t merited. Obama did not say it to be negative, he was chiding that his bowling skills. Give it a break. Sorry to offend parents with disabled children.

Personally, I’m offended that bonuses were paid out with taxpayer dollars. Money that could have been spent for programs for the disabled. Why isn’t Shriver up in arms about that?

Ridiculous!

Jill March 21, 2009, 11:06 AM

Obama said something stupid. It wasn’t supposed to be offensive. It was a lame attempt at a joke. Presidents shouldn’t be on late night talk shows. I like Obama, but come on, Obama, that was a stupid idea.

Mikki March 21, 2009, 2:57 PM

Everyone slips. Doesn’t mean we have to fall. Can anyone censor everything he/she says without typing it first? I’m sensitive to the needs of the Special Olympics participants and those living with any disability or difference — but we’d first have to find the first comic who did a joke about this and vilify him/her in order to make this the “poster child” of gaffes. BTW — Is poster child an insensitive remark?

Momx5 March 21, 2009, 2:58 PM

It’s such a shame that people can take 500 great things that this man said and just throw them away for the 1 mistake. I am sick of people having to be perfectly p.c. 100% of the time. I have a special child, I am also gay and I used to live in a trailor when times were tough. So what.

The only way you can offend me, is if I become too sensitive about humor and human mistakes. Go blog about the kids that tease the special ones, and call each other retarted or gay. They don’t care how insensitive they are, and that’s exactly where your problem lies. Matter of fact, go to their mothers and verbally dissaprove of them.

I don’t want my president to think he can’t be himself, flaws included. He has overcome such an enormous obstacle and no one is even giving him a chance to breath.

And he said he was sorry. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even catch it the first time. Not until it spammed every news program and every single blog site I use. Geeze you guys.

If your always angry at what other people say (especially by accident), you add so much anxiety into your life and if your caring for a special needs child, that does him more harm than the comment.

Now go look at how beautiful you child is.



Anonymous March 21, 2009, 6:56 PM

He screwed up just like any other political figure did.

K&C's mom March 21, 2009, 11:03 PM

I don’t think he meant it to be offensive, and he did call the head of the Special Olympics before the show ever aired, and applogized, that took guts! At least he is showing he is human, we all have those slips that we later regret!!!

joan March 22, 2009, 1:36 AM

I am a huge Obama supporter, and yet I think it was a real mistake to appear on a late night talk show. It just suggests that he might have time to kill instead of running the country.

sugar mama March 22, 2009, 7:11 PM

I, too, have a family member who has participated in the special olympics (even medaled!) - but while i found Obama’s remark careless (no more than that) i was far more concerned by the fact that OUR PRESIDENT WAS ON JAY LENO.

Mary March 23, 2009, 4:19 PM

I was so shocked by his comment and from the casual way he said it, it’s very much a part of his mentality.

I voted for him. I can’t believe it and he has done nothing to apologize for this. Apologizing to Timothy Shriver doesn’t count to families who were humiliated. The only thing Obama seemed to be ashamed of was the fact he insulted the Kennedy family, founders of Special Olympics. If the Kennedys had not thrown their support behind him, Hillary Clinton would now be President.


Gloria Perez-Walker March 23, 2009, 6:24 PM

Thank you Mary—I couldn’t have said it better. Special Olympics is not the face of the disability movement. If we want to get technical, it’s a SEGREGATED organization for people with disabilities. Saying how “great” it is and how great his apology was misses the point entirely.

I too voted for Obama and am a supporter. That said, I am also the mother of a child with a disability and don’t think this is about my president on a stupid talk show, or about a careless “slip”, or about him being an overachiever—it’s how people with disabilities are viewed as LESS than by everyone else, INCLUDING our current president.

Ten Tees January 9, 2011, 2:19 PM

Good info. Good and fun reading. There’s a small point to offer about funny t-shirts.

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