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Special Olympics Mom Disgusted by Obama

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Momlogic spoke with the mom of a Special Olympics athlete to get her reaction to Obama's unfortunate crack on "The Tonight Show."

Mary McClamroch

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.



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62 comments so far | Post a comment now
Dara March 23, 2009, 6:59 AM

you’re absolutely right. i was in a bit of a shock myself when i heard that. but like many others in the audience i tried to brush it off thinking “oh he didn’t mean it like that”. but that was completely disrespectful.

Trisha March 23, 2009, 8:01 AM

I agree with you completely. I am a teacher and have worked with special needs children. I know a child with Down’s syndrome that attends the Special Olympics every summer. He is the most awesome, loving kid you would ever went to know. Every time I see him in the hall, he always has a big smile and a kind word for me-unlike most of the other 8th graders I happen to see. The words cut deep and I totally understand your outrage. I think this commet tells us a lot of our President’s heart (or lack of).

Anonymous March 23, 2009, 8:33 AM

the man is a disgrace

Brie March 23, 2009, 9:25 AM

Let it go already. We’ve all said stupid things. At least he apologized.

cyndi March 23, 2009, 9:33 AM

Sorry Brie, but this is more than just “saying a stupid thing”. This is more of his lack of respect for human life. It was appalling and Carolyn is right—If he had said he bowls like a gay, the uproar would be unanimous, but because it was special olympics, it’s acceptable. Apparently we can freely denigrate those who can’t defend themselves.

ame i. March 23, 2009, 9:41 AM

It sounds like someone needs a big healthy dose of Get the Hell Over It.

Mom2two March 23, 2009, 9:43 AM

Yes, he is the president but he is also human therefore he is not infallible. We all make mistakes and unless you are living the situation (in this case, being directly involved with special needs individuals) his was an error that could easily have been made without ill intent. Off-handed and also intentional comments are always made about overweight people but no one thinks twice about it except for those that are overweight/obese. It’s the same here, unless it is your reality it is possible for these mistakes to be made. I’m sure he won’t make the error again. Please accept his apology and move on.

Gigohead  March 23, 2009, 10:22 AM

Carolyn, sorry for your daughter.

But I don’t think he said anything in malice and I wish the attention would just go away. We are in such dire straights here with the economy, jobs lost, homes going on foreclosure. I pray I can keep my job and have funds to feed my three kids. I have huge heating costs as well.

I was more upset that my tax dollars were used for bonuses at a time where I’m grappling with a $700 heating bill.

Can we please put this issue to “bed”, its the third article on this site in the past couple of days.

Let’s see more issues that affect funding for our kids schools and education please.

Special Education Teacher March 23, 2009, 10:25 AM

As a teacher of special needs children and adults at a mental health facility for the intellectually and developmentally delayed I find it particularly offensive. Attending Special Olympics is one of the highlights of the year for the clients and staff at this facility and is not taken lightly. Obama should be ashamed and an apology is not enough. Obviously, that is the way he feels and that will not change. Of course, Jay Leno is only an entertainer and can’t be expected to have any sense.

Robin March 23, 2009, 10:26 AM

This was sad! Everyone always is saying OBama is such an eloquent speaker (AND THAN THIS COMMENT!) Well the joke is on him! My husband and I have a 27 year old son with Down Syndrome that bowls with Special Olympics (he would beat OBama)and we have seen many games that the athletes bowled a 200! Also as my husband and I volunteer with Special Olympics we have seen alot of basketball players that would Slam Dunk over OBama. But what is most important about this issue THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES SHOULD NOT MAKE A SLIP OR COMMENT LIKE THIS!

Kristine March 23, 2009, 10:35 AM

This “slip up” just goes to show that Obama should not be on television without his dear teleprompter.

cyndi March 23, 2009, 10:42 AM

I was thinking the same thing Kristine—I’ll be he’s done his last comedy show….hopefully! With everything going on, he had no business doing it anyway. It was demeaning to the office and look how sideways it went. Apparently he’s not so eloquent without his precious teleprompter.

Anonymous March 23, 2009, 10:54 AM

I think people should stop being so easily offended but I also think a president has no business going on Leno.

littlepeapie March 23, 2009, 11:25 AM

As a former spe ed teacher and speech pathologist, I do think that Obama made a mistake, plain and simple and it was an ugly mistake. We all say things we immediately regret at some point and none of us has been through life without saying something derogatory about someone else. He meant no hard. Give the man a break, he is a human and not perfect. Mistakes will be made, none of us could do a better job.

redskins rick March 23, 2009, 11:33 AM

He is a total pile of garbage. If W did this he would have been impeached. How easily we all forget the nappy headed ho comment by IMUS. You liberals are so hateful you can’t see past your own hate.

Amy March 23, 2009, 11:36 AM

Is it any wonder this country is DEPRESSED? Here’s a hint - it’s not the economy.

Seriously, no one can have any fun at anyone else’s expense. Everything is “politically correct” now, and people break out the picket signs and boycott petitions at the slightest slight toward anyone.

I didn’t vote for Obama, and my youngest brother is autistic. Oh yeah, and I laughed at the joke - it was off the cuff and it was FUNNY. No one pointed at your kid and mocked them on national TV - he was mocking HIMSELF.

How about we ALL grow the heck up, get thicker skins and try to ENJOY this life we have instead of complaining about who said what and insulted whom? Teach your children tolerance and not to care so much what others think and say about them.

Emma March 23, 2009, 11:41 AM

How about instead of being so angry which is not going to get us anywhere, we use this as an opportunity to educate about the use of negative words and sterotypes? turn something negative into something positive.

Anonymous March 23, 2009, 11:53 AM

Well I agree with the guy who said if W had done this he’d be burned at the stake. But, since it was the almighty obama let’s just laugh it off.

Anonymous March 23, 2009, 12:00 PM

Though I agree it was disrespectful, it was a mistake. You can not tell me the you have never said something you’ve regretted, or something to poke a little fun at someone else and in the end hurt their feelings! Obama is the President, not God. Mistakes happen. And then you apologize. And he did. Let’s just move on.

Chellie March 23, 2009, 12:42 PM

I think the man made a horrible, horrible mistake but I think he realized this and regretted it. I’m sure we have all at some point said something incredibly stupid or insensitive. I try to look on the bright side and hope that maybe now more attention will be given to the Special Olympics and other events like it. I think maybe some good can come from saying something stupid. If only our newly former president could learn from every stupid remark he made. By the time he left office he would have been in MENSA.


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