Words Hurt

March 20, 2009

President Barack Obama has apologized for a joke he made on Jay Leno's show last night. Obama joked that his recent bowling score of 129 was like "the Special Olympics or something." He has since apologized to Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver for the joke. Shriver, whose mother founded the Special Olympics and was a sister of John F. Kennedy, explained the problem very well:

It's important to see that words hurt, and words do matter. And these words that in some respect can be seen as humiliating or a put-down of people with special needs do cause pain, and they do result in stereotypes.
Amen! During the primary, Obama gave a speech about how important words are (a speech that, ironically, was "borrowed" from another politician). It seems he now needed to be reminded of that point. Hopefully, we will all be mindful of Shriver's point before we say things. On a related note, the best bowler in the Special Olympics could easily beat Obama since the guy has bowled a perfect 300 five times in the last four years.