Spread the Word Inclusion
Last week was the 10th annual Special Olympics Respect Rally. I have written about this in the past as the organization has sought to “spread the word to end the word.” Past rallies have urged our community to replace the word “retard” with the word “respect”. This year, the message was taken one step further by asking us to spread the word INCLUSION. The organizers asked us to show respect to all by including all. Special Olympics Montana President and Chief Executive Fan Bob Norbie made these points which have resonated with me and I hope they do with you too:
- “What you call people determines how you treat people.” Norbie was quoting a Special Olympian who was lamenting how much it hurts to be called names. It is true that our thoughts drive our words and our words drive our actions. Gandhi noted, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values and your values become your destiny.” One small change in the sequence could change everything.
- “We know the world would be better if everyone were included. Exclusion and discrimination continue to divide people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. We believe that the world would be better if all people were valued, respected, embraced and included in our schools, workplaces and communities. Our goal is to disrupt this cycle of isolation and exclusion with grassroots action for inclusion in schools, workplaces and communities.” GFPS has and will continue to support this worthy goal.
- “Through inclusive sports, classrooms, and community climates of acceptance…we reduce bullying and exclusion, we promote healthy activity and interactions, we combat stereotypes and stigma, we eliminate hurtful language in schools, and we engage young people in prosocial activities that lead to more inclusive and accepting attitudes and behavior.” He cited the Special Olympics Unified Champion School strategies that GFPS has embraced. A big thanks to NMS Associate Principal Jamie McGraw for heading this up. A big thanks to all the teachers and students who have and will show this unified and inclusive spirit this May when we host the Summer Games.
- “Creating a more inclusive world starts with a single action: YOURS! Be a teammate. Be a friend. Seek out someone who has been left out, isolated or bullied. Sit next to someone alone at lunch. Say hello to someone in the hallway. Choose your way to spread inclusion. Make it personal. Start today!”
I hope Bob Norbie’s words encourage you to do something. Any small thing like reminding students about the importance of inclusion is a good start. Making inclusion of all a reality is not simple or easy. It will take time. At the end of the day however, it’s about choice. At the rally last week, I noted, “We always have a choice in what we think and what we say and today’s rally is about making a BETTER choice. A choice that focuses on abilities not disabilities. A choice that focuses on positives instead of negatives. A choice that focuses on dignifying not degrading. A choice that focuses on respect for all!” Here’s to inclusive choices today, tomorrow and always!
Take care. Be safe. Stay well.