I am Loretta & I Dream of a World Where I Can Be Me

Almost fifty years ago, a great American, whose symbolic shadow we stand today, announced that we were the stars and the world was watching us. Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of those within the intellectual disability community who have been seared in the flames of withering injustice their entire lives.

As I borrow from the great Martin Luther King, Jr., to craft my own message today, I reflect on how truly powerful this dream of Mrs. Shriver’s was as well. It was a vision of the future that later served as the mission for an entire movement which the Special Olympics is at the forefront of today.

We’ve come so far accepting people based on their outward characteristics, but my dream for the future is acceptance of all people in all ways! I, as a black, female, human being, with intellectual disabilities, should have access to all things not based on how I can read but based on what I CAN DO, what I contribute to this great world of ours.

In my eyes as long as those with intellectual disabilities are beaten on Facebook Live, bullied in the schoolyard, mocked by comedians and political operatives, and receiving less than adequate healthcare, America continues to default on this check that Dr. King went to cash so long ago. I too am an heir of the promissory note that the architects of our republic wrote into the Declaration of Independence, in stating that “all men are created equal.”

“But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”

And because of this, I, Loretta, have a dream where one day I can be me.

In this dream of mine, people see me as an accomplished individual. I am valued for my talent and not dismissed for my shortcomings. I’ll be known as a competitive athlete, not an intellectually disabled person who plays sports. I am an athlete, a tax payer, a volunteer, an award winner, and a motivational speaker, but in 2017, I am still dreaming of the day when I won’t have to fight to be seen as a whole person.

In my dream, I receive equal opportunities as my peers without intellectual disabilities. I am judged not based on how I read or write, but by what I am bringing to the table. I receive equal pay for equal work. And at the end of every day, you will see my work ethic and my heart and recognize that my success comes from within.

I dream of this beautiful day because it’s only then, when people with intellectual disabilities will know that their voices and their dreams matter. On this day, the world will finally understand that true acceptance means we live unified and that we have won the battle for inclusion.

I will be included. I will live in an inclusive world.
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