Arielle Somadi '15, Maggie Morony '15, and Katrina Scandrett '15 proudly show off their buttons.

Elise Goodvin

Spread the Word to End the Word Day Championed by Best Buddies students

March 4, 2015

Stupid. Incompetent. Inferior. These words have come to be used interchangeably with the word “retard,” a word now commonly used to describe the mentally disabled.

City High ELL students show their support for STWTETW day.

Elise Goodvin
City High ELL students show their support for STWTETW day.

The word retard dates back to 1426, stemming from the Latin verb “retardare,” meaning to hinder or make slow. Retard was not used to refer to mentally disabled people until the 1960s, when it became a recognized medical term. In this era, children were institutionalized with the mindset that they were unfit to interact with society.

Times have since changed, and people across the country are fighting for reform of the use of the word “retard” as well.

Kyle Swenning ‘16 is among those who feel very strongly about eradicating “the r-word.”

“The word is outdated and makes us look weak.””

— Kyle Swenning

“The word is outdated and makes us look weak,” Swenning said. “Society can not function properly if people push others around to make themselves feel better about themselves. In all honesty, it is just a word that is used by a person with a weak vocabulary and low self confidence.”

The legal use of the word “retard” was dramatically changed in 2010 when President Obama signed Rosa’s Law into effect.

Rosa’s Law is named after Rosa Marcellino, a nine year old from Maryland who has Down Syndrome. Rosa and her family lobbied for this bill at the state level for two years because of the way “retard” was used in her education system and health records, proceeding to lobby for it on the national level as well.

Autumn Moen ‘16 doesn’t understand why people still use the word today.

“I have friends with intellectual disabilities and when they hear people use the r-word, it makes them think they are stupid or weird, when they aren’t,” Moen said.

According to the UN, Around 15 percent of the world’s population, or an estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities, composing of the world’s largest minority.

“People use it [retard] as a slur or a synonym for dumb or stupid,” Best Buddies member, Lauren Sammons ‘18, said. “It’s hurtful to her [her buddy] and many other people when people use that word”.

Best Buddies is an international organization founded back in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver at Georgetown University. They often use the phrase, “Let’s put Best Buddies out of business,” because they work to create equality for all, thus eliminating a need for the group altogether. They helped found an organization now known as the R-Word.

R-Word was founded in 2009 at the Special Olympics World Winter Games by a group of youth activists both with and without intellectual disabilities. The R-word campaign is to draw attention to the fact that a large population of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are hurt and offended by the use of the words “retard” or “retarded”.

Melanie Hopkins, the Lead Program Manager, works to help supervise all of Iowa’s Best Buddies chapters. Hopkins thinks that the use of “retard” may be sometimes used without us thinking of what we are saying,

“There are some words in our vocabulary that should never be put into practice — these are words that tear down instead of build up, that hurt instead of encourage, and that limit others instead of empower them,” Hopkins said. “The r-word is one of these words.”

Hopkins believes that, in the future, people should think of what we say before they say it, and society should remove “retard” from their vocabulary entirely.

“It’s your choice — what kind of impact do you want your words to make? Choose to build others up, to encourage and to empower,” Hopkins said. “We will all be better in result.”

You can visit www.r-word.org to take the pledge to stop using the word “retard” and start using respectful, people-first language.

Students Show Button Pride on End the Word  Day

Elise Goodvin

"I don't use the r-word because I think that it is absurd. There are so many other words that you could use yet you choose to use a word that is humiliating and degrading to so many. Cornell is not only my Best Buddy but also my best friend. Think before you speak." -Elise Goodvin

Students Show Button Pride on End the Word Day

Mitch McCarthey '16 and Anton Buri '15 want you to sign the pledge like they have.

Elise Goodvin
Mitch McCarthey ’16 and Anton Buri ’15 want you to sign the pledge like they have.

Sofie Lie '17 and Sadie Hobbs '17 show off their buttons right after they signed the pledge for Spread the Word to End the Word day.

Elise Goodvin
Sofie Lie ’17 and Sadie Hobbs ’17 show off their buttons right after they signed the pledge for Spread the Word to End the Word day.

Austin Tholen '15 and Joe Britton '15 support each other in their support for the cause.

Elise Goodvin
Austin Tholen ’15 and Joe Britton ’15 support each other in their support for the cause.

"I do not use the R word because it is explicitly dehumanizing and outdated. It tears away an individual's right to feel comfortable and safe, especially in a school environment. Today, the R word is an extremely ignorant term and due it's extremely negative connotations, should be abolished." - Taylor Milefchik '15

Elise Goodvin
“I do not use the R word because it is explicitly dehumanizing and outdated. It tears away an individual’s right to feel comfortable and safe, especially in a school environment. Today, the R word is an extremely ignorant term and due it’s extremely negative connotations, should be abolished.” – Taylor Milefchik ’15

ELL students took the pledge and got their buttons.

Elise Goodvin
ELL students took the pledge and got their buttons.

Bj Sullivan '15 uses his button to block the r-word.

Elise Goodvin
Bj Sullivan ’15 uses his button to block the r-word.

Erin Patterson '15 says that the r-word hurts everyone.

Elise Goodvin
Erin Patterson ’15 says that the r-word hurts everyone.

"I don't use the r-word because I think that it is absurd. There are so many other words that you could use yet you choose to use a word that is humiliating and degrading to so many. Cornell is not only my Best Buddy but also my best friend. Think before you speak." -Elise Goodvin

Elise Goodvin
“I don’t use the r-word because I think that it is absurd. There are so many other words that you could use yet you choose to use a word that is humiliating and degrading to so many. Cornell is not only my Best Buddy but also my best friend. Think before you speak.” -Elise Goodvin

Ellijah Jones '18 shows his muscles off while showing his button off.

Elise Goodvin
Ellijah Jones ’18 shows his muscles off while showing his button off.

Lauren White '17 doesn't want you to use the r-word at all.

Elise Goodvin
Lauren White ’17 doesn’t want you to use the r-word at all.

Savannah Surom '15 signed the pledge, now so should you.

Elise Goodvin
Savannah Surom ’15 signed the pledge, now so should you.

Dominic Balestrieri-Fox '16 shows double the support for the cause

Elise Goodvin
Dominic Balestrieri-Fox ’16 shows double the support for the cause

Dacey Messinger '15, Lillie Christopherson '15, and Emma Pradarelli '15 think that using the R-word is no laughing matter.

Elise Goodvin
Dacey Messinger ’15, Lillie Christopherson ’15, and Emma Pradarelli ’15 think that using the R-word is no laughing matter.

Students came in and pledged so they got a button. You can pledge at R-word.org

Elise Goodvin
Students came in and pledged so they got a button. You can pledge at R-word.org

Online editors Nova Murice '17 and Sarah Smith '17 think that the R-word is absurd.

Elise Goodvin
Online editors Nova Murice ’17 and Sarah Smith ’17 think that the R-word is absurd.

Jonas Geerdes '16 and Caroline Brown '16 both agree that people shouldn't use the R-word.

Elise Goodvin
Jonas Geerdes ’16 and Caroline Brown ’16 both agree that people shouldn’t use the R-word.

"I don't use the R word because it degrades and hurts the people it used against. Also the R word is used to describe someone/something that is stupid or dumb but really the people that have it said to them are nice and good people and we can learn a lot from them." - Jake Parker '16

Elise Goodvin
“I don’t use the R word because it degrades and hurts the people it used against. Also the R word is used to describe someone/something that is stupid or dumb but really the people that have it said to them are nice and good people and we can learn a lot from them.” – Jake Parker ’16

Dacey Messinger '15, Lillie Christopherson '15, and Emma Pradarelli '15 all took the pledge and got their buttons.

Elise Goodvin
Dacey Messinger ’15, Lillie Christopherson ’15, and Emma Pradarelli ’15 all took the pledge and got their buttons.

Gracie Steve '15 and BJ Sullivan '15 support the cause not to use the R-word.

Elise Goodvin
Gracie Steve ’15 and BJ Sullivan ’15 support the cause not to use the R-word.

President Cora Bern-Klug '15 wants you not to use the R-word.

Elise Goodvin
President Cora Bern-Klug ’15 wants you not to use the R-word.

Arielle Somadi '15, Maggie Morony '15, and Katrina Scandrett '15 proudly show off their buttons.

Elise Goodvin
Arielle Somadi ’15, Maggie Morony ’15, and Katrina Scandrett ’15 proudly show off their buttons.

Makayla Buckman '15 tries to silence anyone she hears use the R-word.

Elise Goodvin
Makayla Buckman ’15 tries to silence anyone she hears use the R-word.

Seniors Taylor Milefchik and Cora Bern-Klug would love for you to take the pledge.

Elise Goodvin
Seniors Taylor Milefchik and Cora Bern-Klug would love for you to take the pledge.

Rasmus Schlutter '17 and Joey Wideman '16 both support Best Buddies.

Elise Goodvin
Rasmus Schlutter ’17 and Joey Wideman ’16 both support Best Buddies.

City High ELL students show their support for STWTETW day.

Elise Goodvin
City High ELL students show their support for STWTETW day.

Rachel Fischer '17 and Claire Goodfellow '16 took the pledge not to use the r-word

Elise Goodvin
Rachel Fischer ’17 and Claire Goodfellow ’16 took the pledge not to use the r-word

Oliva Peterson '15 and Estie Dillard '17 show off their buttons, they choose not to use the R-word in their everyday conversations.

Elise Goodvin
Oliva Peterson ’15 and Estie Dillard ’17 show off their buttons, they choose not to use the R-word in their everyday conversations.

"People shouldn't use the R word anymore because when they use it as a slur or a synonym for dumb or stupid, they are calling Lauren White dumb or stupid, and she's not! Lauren is one of the smartest people I know and it's hurtful to her and many other people when people use that word" - Lauren Sammons '18

Elise Goodvin
“People shouldn’t use the R word anymore because when they use it as a slur or a synonym for dumb or stupid, they are calling Lauren White dumb or stupid, and she’s not! Lauren is one of the smartest people I know and it’s hurtful to her and many other people when people use that word” – Lauren Sammons ’18

Seniors Payton Evans and Lillie Christopherson show their support buttons for the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign.

Elise Goodvin
Seniors Payton Evans and Lillie Christopherson show their support buttons for the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign.

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