Carolyn McClamrock: Initially, my husband and I were just in shock when we heard Obama's comments about the Special Olympics on "The Tonight Show." Obama said a recent 129 he scored in the White House bowling alley had been "like Special Olympics, or something." It's almost like when you watch something and you don't believe you are hearing or seeing it -- that's how we felt. It just blew us away. Then we heard the audience laughing. It was just so hurtful and disrespectful. What if Obama had substituted a nationality or lifestyle, like homosexuality, in his statement, and said that he "bowled like a homosexual" or "bowled like a Hispanic"? Would the media have been able to protect him from that ? Just think of the repercussions!
When I heard the roar of guffaws rise from the audience, I just wished one person would have just stood up and said, "How DARE you say this!" That's certainly what I would have done.
I have a 23-year-old daughter, Mary, who has cerebral palsy, and every day is a struggle. One of the highlights of her life is the Special Olympics. She has participated in basketball and swimming, and hopes to play golf next year. For our President to say something like this completely lowers him in my eyes to the lowest of the low. A statement like this coming from the leader of our country can set us back so many years, almost to square one.
When Ben Stiller said the word "retard" in the movie "Tropic Thunder," a national boycott was called. But Ben Stiller is just an actor. This is the President of our country! It's like we take two steps forward, and then five steps back. It boggles the mind.
I think the media is making a big deal out of the fact that he called from Air Force One and apologized to the President of the Special Olympics. But an apology doesn't take away what he said. It's like saying to a jury, "Disregard what you just heard." You can't just forget he said it. The statement has been made, and you can't take it back, anymore than someone who's joyriding and wipes out a family can take it back. They're sorry, but so what. The damage has been done.
A coach sets the tone for a team, a CEO sets the tone for a company, and the principal sets the tone for a school. Our President sets the tone for our country. He should be held to a certain standard. How are we to trust him with world leaders when he can't even remember to be nice to a group of people in his own country? If he can't remember to use some decorum and respect, how will he behave abroad dealing with sensitive issues?
His statement was just mean. Why can't he simply remember the golden rule?
Yesterday, I took my daughter to the Apple store to get her iPod fixed. She can talk quite loudly, and people do stare. This is the kind of thing we deal with daily. We get judged by strangers ... but we shouldn't be judged by our President, too.
Thankfully, awareness for disabilities has come a long way, but this remark is like a punch in the stomach.
Being the mother of a child with special needs is not easy. You play the hand that's dealt you. If something goes wrong, you just do the best you can. There are good days and bad days. and there are many times I think, 'I cannot do this.' But you do what you have to do to bring joy into their lives. Seeing her happy makes it all worth it. And the Special Olympics have provided some of her happiest times. It's one of the highlights of her life, but there are a lot of lows. We just try to think of the cup as half full at all times, and balance the bad times with the good.
If I could send a message to Obama directly, I'd say: "God forbid one of your daughters has a special needs child, or gets into an accident and becomes a special needs child. It can happen to anybody. Until you've walked in my shoes, you just don't know what it's like."
I wonder if Obama's PR people are going to have him show up to a Special Olympics event now? To me, that would just be so condescending. He shouldn't even bother.
Do you agree with Carolyn's feelings? Comment below.