Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dear Sarah,

You are fortunate to have a platform from which you can advocate and educate our society about Down syndrome (and all intellectual and physical disabilities). As you well know, when you post something on Facebook, the whole world hears about it.

That is why we—a group of parents of children just like your youngest child—are asking you to strengthen your position on the pejorative use of the word "retarded". It is important that you understand the connection we see between the insult and Trig so that you are better able to articulate our position on this issue.

Everybody knows and agrees that the word "retarded" used in a clinical setting defines a group of individuals as having limited cognitive abilities. In this respect, the term carries similar effects as racial or sexual orientation categorizations, in that it invokes a specific class of individuals with immutable characteristics.

But what not everybody seems to realize is that the current, common definitions of the word "retarded" as stupid, wrong, ineffective... the catch-all for anything that is annoyingly deficient, are steeped in our cultural view of people with mental retardation.

So whether one is using the term as an insult or to raise laughs through satire, the speaker is tapping into our common cultural understanding and belief that people with mental retardation are characterized by those negative definitions listed above. The speaker references a group of individuals defined solely by their cognitive limitations, denying them their individual personalities, and by extension their essential humanity. He agrees that this group is inferior and worthy of our scorn. This use of the word "retarded" has become so deeply ingrained in our society that the user probably doesn’t even realize that he has done this.

Many people, when called out on their use of the word, insist that they meant no harm to the mentally retarded community, that their use of the word had nothing to do with this minority group. These people must be made aware that there is no separating the insult/joke from its basis for understanding it.

No one believes that Rahm Emanuel or Rush Limbaugh thought that they were insulting those with true mental retardation when they called people whose ideas they objected to "retarded." But we do believe that both men were making the point that their targets' ideas were of so little merit that they deserve to be grouped with an undesirable category of people. Both the direct target of the insult, and the class of people it refers to, are indisputably demeaned by such a slur. You cannot have one without the other.

Put a simpler way, if people with mental retardation were generally well-respected and thought highly of, the insult "retarded" would not exist.

Having the government remove the term retarded from the books, and having the medical community change the diagnosis terminology to "a person with intellectual disabilities," is not enough to eradicate the insult. The public must be made aware of how the insult relates to and hurts an entire group of people. This is not a word police PC thing, rather it is a matter of common decency.

Some argue that the insult "retarded" will simply be replaced by another word that is just as hurtful to the intellectually disabled community. But just because some group of the population will always turn clinical or descriptive terms into epithets does not mean that we should condone it. Such a standard would condone the use of virtually any racial, ethnic, or sexual orientation slur.

Sarah, we are asking you to take advantage of teachable moments by calling people out on using terms that systematically demean specific groups. If you are going to fight for what you believe in, and you believe in Trig and all those like him, then you cannot give anybody a pass on this issue. Whether used as an insult or a joke, coming from a Republican or Democrat, it cannot be tolerated.

If you stand up on this issue and speak clearly about the relationship between the word and our children, real change can happen. It will become less and less acceptable to use this entire group of innocent people as the butt of jokes and insults.

We thank you for taking the time to read this letter and look forward to your continued support on this issue.

Oz Squad November
Oz Squad Alpha

Please view the comments to see the rest of our signatures


  1. Dear Ms. Palin, I was excited when you responded to the use of the r-word from Mr. Emanuel but I was very disappointed to your reaction to Mr. Limbaugh's use of the word. There is no proper usage of the r-word as a noun. No one should be called that word because by using it you are trying to devalue them by comparing that person to people who are mentally disabled. My son is not a retard. He is young man who was born with a disability that he struggles with every day to overcome.

    We need to ask that everyone who uses this word stops using that word. Hearing that word hurts. Hearing people demeaned with that word hurts me, my wife, my daughter, and especially it hurts my son. I am not asking that people be fired or that they be thrown off the radio. I am just asking that they stop using that word. Why is this so hard?

    Thomas Paul
    Plainview, NY

  2. The Unknown Contributor, NY


  3. Down With Oz, NC


  4. I let Em speak for herself on this one....kind of!


  5. Dear Mrs. Palin,
    Please help us get the word out that it is not ok for anyone to use the R-Word.

    I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.

    Please help to Spread the Word to End the Word.

    Thank you for joining us on this mission.

  6. Dear Mrs. Palin,

    You find yourself in a very powerful position. People are listening to what you have to say. Please use that position to represent your son and all our sons and daughters whose words may not come as easy, who may not be heard. The R-word is not nice, no matter how it is used. We do not not want our children, your son, to grow up having to listen to that word. This is the time for you to step up for all our children and not defend the derogatory use of the R-word by anyone.

    Thank you,
    Dina Niblock, Durham, NC

  7. Dear Mrs. Palin,

    I hope you take the time to get to know us. We love our children dearly and would fight to the end to make sure they are treated with the upmost respect.


    Thank you,

    The Brown Family

  8. Dear Sarah,

    Thanks in advance for sticking up for our children the next time you get a chance.


  9. teachable moments. Let's teach society that our kids are worth their weight in gold and stand up for them every chance we get!


  10. Advocating to spread the word to end the derogatory use of the r-word - Bill, Ria, and Matthew

  11. People will listen to you. Please help us to spread the word that using the "R" word to insult, demean, or make a point in an argument is never okay and it always hurts someone. It's not about being PC. It's about respect.
    Susan Carson, Portland, Oregon

  12. This is not a political issue, it is an issue of humanity.


    Christie Taylor
    Kokomo, IN

  13. You have a large audience who are listening to what you say AND what you DON'T say. Please don't waste this opportunity to affect positive change on behalf of all of our children.

    Thank you,
    The Kenimer family

  14. Ann, Texas


  15. I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. I would also like to add the word "spaz" to that list of unacceptable words. Bonnie DiPacio, Fort Lauderdale, FL

  16. Please stand up and be an advocate for our children. Don't let politics stand in the way of what you know is wrong.

    Josh & Jenny
    Columbus, WI


  17. There are NO excuses for using the word. Every politician, entertainer, and journalist should be held to the same standards. There is no satire when using the word, only ignorance. No humor, only hurt. No excuses, everyone should be held accountable for their words.

  18. Dear Sarah Palin,

    I want to thank you in advance for supporting our cause - one that I know you are familiar with.

    God has put you in a position of power and influence, please take our voices with you.

    Thank you, Mrs. Palin.


  19. Dan, I also retweeted and reposted this on Facebook. I will also copy your letter and post it on my blog later on today.

    God bless,

    Windmills and Tulips
    Jasmine and Gabby

  20. Dear Mrs. Palin,

    I hope you realize that you represent so many families that are unheard in the usual national dialogue and that this is such a chance for you to shine a bright (nonpartisan) light on this issue.

  21. Hello Sarah,

    My personal feeling is that you don't really care about the use of the word retard unless you can get some kind of political advantage out of it.

    I would be more than happy if you proved me wrong by addressing the comments made by Rahm Emanuel and Rush Limbaugh in a bi-partisan manner.

  22. You have a unique opportunity to help light the way for individuals with Down syndrome and the people who love them.

    We're asking that you use your voice to further the cause.


    Bridget's Light
    Lisa, Bridget and Alina

  23. Leah Spring, MN

    Angela speaks for herself

  24. Most of us as families do not have much of a public voice, you do! I pray that you will always speak out on our behalf and for our children every chance you get!
    Boston's Mommy

  25. Agreed.

    John Adams
    San Jose, CA

  26. Dear Sarah,
    Please use your unique and strong voice to educate and to advocate for all people with intellectual disabilities, not to shrug off the derogatory r-word as harmless in certain situations. Trig deserves better than that, as do his peers with Down syndrome and their families. The Ds community is hoping you will stand with us to help our kids grow up in a kinder, more accepting world.

    Thank you for your time.

    Monica, mom to John Michael

  27. Lisa Morguess & Family
    Fullerton, CA


  28. Dear Sarah Palin,

    Please stand up for all of our children when you have been given such a unique opportunity. We all have opportunities whether on the large political stage, in our communities, or in our own homes to advocate for our children and work to eliminate the use of such a derogatory word.

    Kelli, Chris and Colin Tobin @ http://loveforcolin.blogspot.com

  29. Mrs Palin,
    Please speak up for our children. Spread the word to stop the word. People are watching and listening to you. Be an advocate for our children.

  30. How could any parent of a child with DS not have a clear, consistent position on this? You have a platform, and an obligation.

    Jeff Tebbs
    San Antonio, TX

  31. Do it for Trig!

    The Sandler Family
    Portland, Oregon

  32. Please listen Sarah.

    The Sanchez Family

  33. Please be an advocate for our kids. Please leave politics out of this.

    The Nargi family


  34. Dear Sarah,
    God has given you a gift for politics...and therefore a unique platform. God has also given you Trig, please use what He has given you to change people's hearts and minds about the "R" word.


  35. Your kid, my kid, all our kids.

    For their sake. They are the future and deserve a life free of insults based on one small, unchangeable part of themselves.

    Jen at only who i am


  36. Dear Sarah,

    Thank you in advance for doing the right thing. You have a great opportunity to pave the way for change.


  37. Because there are many of us watching to see what happens, from across the globe.

    Di - from Australia

  38. Dear Sarah,

    I hope you take the time to read every word in the Oz Squad letter (and the responses). Please heed the advice and use your platform with fairness.

  39. Michelle Ray & Family


  40. Hi Ms. Sarah:
    Just want to add my positive thoughts with all those who have written and encourage you to continue to take a stand. For such a time as this and for such special people...this may be a higher calling than you ever realized.
    Thanks for taking a stand and being a strong voice on this matter.
    bz in VA

  41. Dear Sarah,

    During the presidential campaign, you said that you were going to be the voice of the special needs community. Well, the Down syndrome community, a community your son is a part of, is speaking, are you listening?

    Now is the time to put your political clout where your mouth is. It's time to keep that campaign promise, even though you were not elected.

    I hope you prove your critics wrong. Stand up for your son, stand up for your family, stand up for those who may not be as able to stand up for themselves. Even if the person you are standing up to is a political ally.

    Do it for Trig!

    Thank you,

    John's mom


  42. Sarah, just do the right thing ALL the time in regard to your child OUR children.....you have a bigger platform than all of us so therefore a bigger obligation.

  43. You are a Mom first, politician second.

  44. Please be strong and stand for this cause!!

  45. Ashley, Wisconsin


  46. Megan & Reid, Georgia


  47. Ms. Palin, on behalf of my 17-month-old son Sheridan, I respectfully request that you consider our voices when your voice is heard so loudly throughout the U.S. Whether you wanted to be thrown into the limelight as an advocate for all people with Ds or not, you have - at least by the media and many Americans - been deemed a key Ambassador in this arena. Please remember that every word you utter, and likewise your silence, reflects directly on every person with Ds and their families and friends who love, support, and advocate for them.


  48. Dear Mrs. Palin,
    Please help us stand up for our children, they deserve respect just like anyone else. We need your full support on this.

    Thank you.

    Adrienne, PA

  49. Let's stand up for the rights of our children.

  50. 'Why are we here? To be light showing God's presence. No one puts their light on a hill only to hide it under a basket.' Matthew 5 The Message translation by Eugene Peterson.

    Sarah, don't put your light under a basket. You have a unique opportunity to shine.

  51. Mrs Palin, please be aware that this has become an international topic of discussion. Use your unique situation to instigate a positive change to the world in this one very important respect.

    Thanks for making a difference for our children.

    Sally (Zurich, Switzerland)


  52. Mrs. Palin,
    If you were unaware, now you know.....people find the R word offensive. Spread the word to end the word. period.
    Diondray and Andrea Wiley, CA

  53. Silence speaks a thousand words... please choose yours carefully to represent your son and our children. The world is listening...

    With thanks,
    Family Riley-Meier

  54. Mrs. Palin,

    I do not know whether supporting disability issues will help you politically, but it could change the world for our children and for the adults they will become. Please use your position to take a consistent pro-disability stance beginning with speaking out against any usage of the r-word as unnecessary and offensive. Thank you, Terri

  55. Jenn, FL

  56. Mrs. Palin,
    As a group of perfect strangers, we often feel like a close-knit family because of our children...and we love Trig. He and you are part of our family! And no matter what, there is never an okay time to use the word retarded. You can't split hairs like that with the media...they will come after you with both barrels! And we need your strong and sure voice so desperately....
    Jill, WI

  57. Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me...if only this were true.
    The Bartosch's, Columbus OH

  58. Sarah, you are in such a pivotal, influencial place to carry the message that words do, in fact, carry immense weight. When "humor" of any kind is used to hurt, control, or target the vulnerable, it is the worst kind of vitriol. Inexcusable. True leaders know that and reject any rationalization to the contrary. True leaders raise the level of discourse for the betterment of all. True leaders don't defend the indefensible because it comes from their partisan membership.

  59. Please,help us to spread the word about the hurtful use of the word 'retard' and why it's not acceptable.

    Job 6:24
    Teach me, and I will hold my tongue : and cause me to understand wherein I have erred .


  60. Ms. Palin-

    As a public figure you have a voice and audience that many of us parents do not have. Please help the sisterhood and brotherhood of parents with children with Down Syndrome to help reduce and eventually eliminate the use of this unacceptable word.


  61. I know you will do the right thing here as well as with your Politics. Our Government is BROKEN and I am looking forward to people (not parties) like you to bring honesty, integrity and common sense back to the USA!!

  62. I cannot even imagine the pressure and scrutiny you endure living your life in the political arena but I do know something of the life you live as the mother of a child with Down syndrome. I have identical twins with Down syndrome. As a group of bloggers dedicated to educating the public about Down syndrome, the Oz Squad applauds your efforts in educating the public and supporting the rights and dignity of your son, Trig, our children, and all people with Down syndrome. We appreciate and respectfully ask that you continue to do so... consistently addressing the misuse of terms like "retard" regardless of the speaker's intention, status or political clout.

    There are words in our society that have fallen from grace because of their modern-day conotations. The "R" word is one of them. As a fellow mother of a child with Down syndrome, I value your powerful voice that can be heard around the world and speed the process of eliminating this derogatory term from use. Thank you!

    If you'd like more input from other mothers who walk in your shoes -- at least in part -- feel free to contact me, or any of us through the Oz Squad or through our blogs. And good luck with pursuing your dreams... and helping Trig and all of your children) pursue theirs.

  63. Thank you Mrs.Palin for helping us spread the word. You will have such a positive influence in the lives of our children.
    Ami Pera and family


    Proverbs 3:5-6

  64. Please hear the pleas of all the self-advocates, parents, family memebers, and friends who are hurt by this word. You have the opportunity to make a difference for us all.

    To whom much is given, much is required.

    Chrystal Smith

  65. Sheridan's NonnaFebruary 19, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    Ms Palin, on behalf of my 18-month-old grandson Sheridan, please be an advocate for all people with Ds - stand up and support this cause.

  66. Signing this on behalf of my little one, Dylan.

    The Putnam Family, Massachusetts


  67. What a unique and wonderful position you are in- to have the power to reach millions of people and have them listen to your message. Here's your real opportunity to "Go Rogue" and advocate for people with intellectual disabilities.

  68. Sarah,

    Dan has quite eloquently expressed what so many of us feel. Please listen to what he has to say, then look at your sweet boy’s face and listen to your heart.

    ~ The Dennis Family

  69. Dear Mrs. Palin, My name is Sarah too. I am 20 years old. Old enough to understand what this conversation is about and I do not like being referred to as a retard. My whole life my mom has stood up for me. I want you to do the same for Trig and for the rest of us since you are always on TV.

  70. Agreed,
    Deborah Minner and family

  71. Jennifer & Mark Schrad, on behalf of our daughter Sophia.
    Champaign, IL

  72. Signing for Lily, my amazing daughter.

  73. The Keim family signing for our son, Eli.
    Bellefonte, PA

  74. We stand with all these people, especially on behalf of Lila Nargi & Joe VanBockern.

    Lyndon Glassgow & Family
    Yakima, Washington

  75. My opinion, for Violette.


  76. I stand with the group to support this worthy and worthwhile cause.

  77. Adding my voice, Sarah. Hoping you'll add yours.

  78. As a parent it is our job to protect our children at all costs. The depths our hearts will go is immeasurable. As a "true advocate" for our children, it is our job to educate those who are "less fortunate" to walk in our paths. Confrontation is never easy, but educating others on behalf of our children is always OK.

    As a mother of 3 young boys under the age of 7, I work hard daily teaching them love, kindness, compassion and to respect themselves and others. I in no way encourage or condone making fun of others at "ANY" cost. "Name calling" is just.plain.Unacceptable.

    We all share a common bonds: our children and our hopes and dreams for their future and acceptance. We all advocate on a daily basis, some of us have louder voices than others while others may reach larger audiences. Whatever the case may be, if we all work together and do our part, we "CAN" spread the word to end the word.

    Signing this on behalf of my sweet baby boy, Landon (and all of his friends).

    The Gomes Family, Massachusetts


  79. Dear Mrs.Palin,
    In my little area I try to do everything I can to make a change in what people think about my son and others with DS.
    I ask you to do what you are able to do. You can reach so many! My wish for my son (20 Month) is that he grow up and be respected by the society just like every other human being should be!
    God bless you!
    Christine Cole, Germany

  80. Dear Sarah Palin, I admired you greatly for your spirit of advocacy for your son. Those of us who have special needs children myust speak for them, among our most powerless citizens. If we con't who will? To my great disappointment, I found htat your advocacy extended only as far as your politics. You chose to defend Rush instead of your son! How cowardly. You were right to correct Rahm Emanuel. He apologized and took the pledge. Rush needs to do the same!
    Sue, in Indiana, proud Grandmother of Clay, age 14

  81. If we don't speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, who will?

  82. I watched you in awe when I was pregnant and you were on the campaign trail with little Trig. Please be the advocate that our little ones need!
    This is for Joey
    Cori Sarno Villacres

  83. I'm in. Sarah, speak up. Your son deserves it. He will always love you, politics are fickle. Don't prioritize them over your son's dignity.

  84. We need to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to educate those around us and advocate for our children. Sarah, your son and mine will live in a better world if we do.

  85. I've been a fan of yours from the moment I heard your pledge to be an advocate for special needs but have been disappointed recently over your latest remarks regarding the "R-word". I don't find that word funny. Ever. Not under any circumstance. Whether it is my family, friend or a stranger using it. It always hurts. Please listen to the message of this letter and all of these comments. You can make such a difference for our children. Please be willing to step up and meet this responsibility.
    Heather Seal (Morgan's mom)

  86. Mrs. Palin,

    When the word retarded is used as an insult, it's a slur, no matter what the context (or the politics) of the person saying it.

    Your continued support -- and additional consistency -- could do a world of good for a lot of folks. I sure hope you'll consider it.

    Jim Webb
    Washington, DC

  87. Ms. Palin,
    Please use your public visibility to take a consistent stand in advocating for end of the r-word.

    Rus, Donna and Matt Wetherill
    Philadelphia, PA

  88. Ms. Palin:
    Thank you for your consideration on this matter. We know where your heart is....please put your choice of words in the correct place, too.
    Thank you.

  89. Mrs. Palin,
    As the mother of an adult son with ASD, I support this letter and the others on the comment board. The R-word has no place as a noun, and only limited, dated, clinical application as an adjective. Abuse of the r-word is wrong, whether from Rahm Emmanuel, Rush Limbaugh, or thoughtless teen-agers, whether offered in anger, derision OR satire!
    You found time to decry Family Guy, which had an actress who has Down Syndrome and who was portraying this in a positive manner, while letting Rush Limbaugh completely off the hook when he was NOT using the r-word in any positive context. Please be consistent in your advocacy, in fairness to your beautiful son and to everyone else.

    Mary Kissane
    University City, MO

  90. I wish that I had the opportunity to reach as many people as you do, Sarah. Oh, the things that I could say, and teach. Most of all, I'd introduce the world to my son, and remind them that he is an individual with feelings, too.

    Maybe you can try that with Trig.

  91. It's great to see so many people take up this cause. Count me in!

  92. Count me in, too!

  93. Dear Ms.Palin,

    While we disagree on many issues, I know one issue we can agree on is the importance of teaching our children to be caring, respectful citizens. The best way to help them learn to be respectful of others is to be good role models. Using language that is disrespectful and hurtful to many families and friends of children with special needs is a terrible example to set for our children, and something someone with your national visibility should be ashamed of. Please use your influence to stand up for this issue and set a better example for all of us.

    Cari Dwyer
    St.Paul, MN

  94. Thanks for taking this letter to heart, Gov. Palin. I know it's difficult being the current face of Down syndrome. But please know that we truly believe that even used satirically, the word "retard" or "retarded" is just wrong.

  95. C. Naylor
    Watervliet, NY