Tyler Lagasse – Holland & Knight L.L.C. Speech (2/2)

The following is the second of two speeches Special Olympics Massachusetts athlete Tyler Lagasse gave at the law firm of Holland & Knight L.L.P. for an event centered around the R-Word campaign, on October 19, 2012 in Boston.

Tyler’s speeches are a testament to the power of words, and also a reminder that when others use hurtful language in 140 characters or less for publicity, our athletes continually show dignity and grace — simply, eloquently, in words that have the power to change perceptions. Using the R-word doesn’t change anything, it does not move us forward. Speaking up about it does.

What is the R-word? To me, the R-word represents disgust, wickedness, prejudice, hatred, mistreatment, and ignorance. It is used as a casual insult to people living with disorders that hinder their ability to function normally. It targets a specific group of people who happen to live with the disabilities they are born with. The people who use that word just don’t know better. They just don’t see what they have to live with every day.

People with documented disabilities did not and I mean did not choose to have them, they didn’t sign up for this. Moreover, they are not put on this Earth to be insulted as much as they are not brought here to be ignored. They cannot help but to live with the disabilities that they are given because there is nothing that everyone can do about them. Still they are living with them through no fault of their own. That does not in any way mean that people with disabilities are inferior.

On a personal note, there have been times during my childhood and early adolescent hood where I have been insulted, teased, and taunted because of my disability. Back then, I have been called names that are in my opinion worse than the R-word, some more threatening, and some just as demeaning. It had a lasting effect on me, those unpleasant words, those nasty sounding names, and those terrible insults. But did I let those bad words own me? NO! I knew perfectly well that I was not who they said I was because I knew who I was and I know who I am today, a human being.

In Special Olympics, we are not labeled as unfit to live, we are every bit as capable of competing in the sports we play. We take pride in the things we do. We don’t see the disability in the athletes, we see the heart, we see the soul, but most of all we see the ability in them. We are here to encourage, we are here to enlighten, and most of all we are here to inspire. Together, WE are the Special Olympics.

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