Letter From The Arc to Rush Limbaugh: Meet With Us

February 5, 2010

Mr. Rush Limbaugh
1270 Avenue of the Americas, 9th Fl.
New York, NY 10020

Dear Mr. Limbaugh:

I am writing on behalf of The Arc of the United States (The Arc), the oldest and largest national nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With 730+ chapters nationwide, The Arc is committed to the full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life.

Earlier this week, on behalf of The Arc, I participated in a frank discussion with White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, regarding comments he made that offended our constituency. On the same day, you engaged in extensive commentary about that meeting, as well as the events surrounding it, using the same offensive language.

I am inviting you to meet personally with a group of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their parents, and siblings to engage in an open and honest dialogue regarding the language you used in your recent commentary. We would like to provide you the opportunity to hear, first hand, why people with intellectual and developmental disabilities believe the words “retard” and “retarded” and similar phrases need to be removed from common use.

Self-advocates, parents, disability rights activists and others are rightly concerned that your comments simply serve to further degrade and denigrate the 7 million individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who struggle on a daily basis to be included in society. We believe that a face to face meeting to discuss these concerns and share the personal impact on these individuals would go far in informing you and your listeners.

I cannot understate the effect of a word many consider an epithet – it is deeply offensive to people that are living with intellectual disabilities, and the tens of millions of their parents, siblings, family members and friends. It is a harsh reminder of the institutionalization, sterilization, abuse, discrimination, violence and exclusion they have faced, and continue to face, as they merely seek to live typical lives.

I invite you to meet with a group of people with intellectual disabilities and their families in a city of your choosing – New York, Washington, DC, or another location. I look forward to a favorable reply.

Sincerely,

Peter V. Berns
Chief Executive Officer

Joint Statement of Disability Leaders

We came here today to meet with Rahm Emanuel and share with him our view on the importance and impact of language. We wanted to invite Mr. Emanuel and all of America to understand the collective efforts of our community to remove the words “retard” and “retarded” from everyday speech.

The R-word is polluting our language. Every day our community hears this word – in schools and workplaces, in print and in movies, on radio and television. And every day they suffer its
dehumanizing effects – mockery, stigma, ridicule. This is a word that is incredibly damaging – not only to the seven million people with intellectual disabilities, but also their friends, family and to all of us.

We are thankful to Mr. Emanuel for meeting with us today and hearing our concerns. He sincerely apologized for his mistake and the pain it caused in our community.

We are happy that he will join more than 54,000 other Americans in pledging to end the use of the R-word at www.r-word.org, and that he committed that the administration would continue to look for ways to partner with us, including examining pending legislation in Congress to remove the R-word from federal law.

Our community has earned the right to be respected instead of ridiculed. We have suffered injustice for generations and we are demanding that it end.

This is another small step on the road to a country that accepts the gifts of all.

Julie Petty, Ricardo Thornton, Hannah Jacobs, Andy Imparato, Peter Berns, Tim Shriver

The Arc Invited to White House Meeting on ‘the R-word’

Washington, D.C. – The Arc of the United States (The Arc) has been invited to join a meeting at the White House today with other disabilities rights advocates to discuss the controversy around White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s use of “the r-word.”

Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc, wrote a letter to Rahm Emanuel pressing for White House support of Rosa’s Law. This legislation would change the term “mental retardation” or “mentally retarded” to “intellectual disabilities” in several federal statutes such as education and employment laws.

WHO: Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc; Andy Imparato, American Association of People with Disabilities; Hannah Jacobs, parent; Julie Petty, self-advocate; Tim Shriver, Special Olympics; and Ricardo Thornton, self-advocate.

WHAT: Meeting with disabilities advocates to discuss Chief of Staff’s use of “the r-word.”

WHEN: TODAY, Wednesday, February 03, 2010 at 2:00 p.m.


 

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