End the “R-Word” Day is an international event that was started a couple of years back to educate people on why the term “retard(ed)” really hurts people. It has really evolved over time, becoming more and more effective. For example, the two main initiatives that have come from the event over the years are “Spread the Word to End the Word” and “The New ‘R-Word’ is Respect!” Anyway, at Lafayette, we always try to do something to support the event and to educate our fellow students. This year was no exception.
We set up a small stage with a microphone and lined up chairs to form an audience, in the Farinon Atrium. The hope was that some people would come on their own, and then people coming through for dinner would either stop and listen, or if they didn’t stop, they could still hear someone speaking and start to think about the issue. Well, all of the chairs were filled, and there were even people standing in the back! It was a better crowd than I expected. Sure, there were many familiar faces, such as friends and volunteers in the program, but there were also quite a few new people who must have been interested in the event, which is awesome!
We kicked the event off by doing the “Best Buddies Cheer,” which is a lot of fun. I did a brief introduction, and then I asked for volunteers to come up to the stage to speak. The first two volunteers were Ryan, one of the buddies in the program, and his mom, Mrs. Beahn. They both spoke beautifully and had tears in their eyes. I had things to say in-between others, but slowly but surely, people came up to share stories about friends they have with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or about feeling ashamed for using the “R-Word” in the past. Everyone spoke so well, and they had wonderful things to say.
To wrap up the event, many of us who had spoken called upon everyone there to not only stop using the word, but to also start spreading the word to end the word. We asked everyone to be listening, and if they hear someone use the word, they should politely ask him or her to stop. We also had a pledge out, which said “I pledge to spread the word to end the word,” and if people were convinced, then we invited them to sign their names, and then it was displayed in Farinon.
Overall, I would say it was a very successful event. It gave people a chance to share emotions and feelings that they may not otherwise get to share. It also gave people a chance to learn about others and to listen to stories. I am so proud of everyone who was there, of those who spoke, and of those who supported the event in anyway. Thank you to everyone! Keep on spreading the word to end the word!
~ Evan Gooberman
Best Buddies Program Coordinator