Yesterday in Boise, Idaho, I gave a keynote speech at a conference. There were 500 people sitting in their chairs as I was being introduced. I had that momentary 'flight' thought GET ME OUTTA HERE. But I knew from experience that it would pass. My topic was 'The 'R' word: Helping people with disabilities deal with teasing and bullying.' They were a warm audience and went with me from the get go.
I could see something happening, from my perch on the stage, as I spoke about the word 'Retard' and how it is the social equivilent of other hateful words. I talked about how it was I came to make the simple decision 'enough' ... really, enough. As I drew to a close, I knew that the talk had gone better than I could have anticipated. I could almost hear people all around the room decide, 'enough'. I looked up to see 500 people standing and applauding. That is a very nice compliment and I'm always moved by it - it happens rarely so it's always a bit of a surprise.
But as I sat at the book table and talked to Boise, I heard story after story. People telling me about being out with someone with a disability and being told, in one woman's situation, that 'he shouldn't be allowed out, he's unpleasant to look at'. She told me that she stood up to the bigot and that she ensured that from thence forward, he was prepared for what might come his way.
However, what got me the most, was the sheer honesty of those who spoke with me. Telling me that they use that word, that even though they work with people with disabilities, then never thought about what the word meant. Several were in tears as they said, pledged almost, to never say it again, to assure that people around them are made aware as well.
Each committment brings hope for a kinder world. Because if I stop it around me, and you stop it around you, and he stops it around him and she stops it around her. Then, one day, it will stop.
Look out Idaho, maybe you'll be the first state to let go of that hateful word, because there's 500 people ready to take on the space around them.
This is what it is to be in a movement.
This is what it takes to fight dispobia.
This is why I get on planes and fly to Boise.