Here’s a statement that you don’t see every day on a website that traditionally avoids politics: President Donald Trump did the right thing.
On Thursday. he stopped Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from cutting funding to Special Olympics.
No matter your party, or how you identify, or your athletic ability, this effort to cut $17.6 million from the federal budget by eliminating all government funding for this important cause should set off alarm bells. It should especially make every member of any marginalized group in America ask: if the Special Olympics are at risk, what about us?
Let’s agree, there are LGBTQ families within Special Olympics and its organization. But that’s not why this apparently resolved budget battle should still matter to us. Their fight parallels ours.
As Special Olympics president Timothy Shriver told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday, the real work his non-profit organization does is not just to help children and adults with disabilities, but to spread awareness of difference.
NEW: Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver reacts to Education Sec. DeVos's Special Olympics defunding proposal. https://t.co/SfY3BfFG5E - @mitchellreports— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 27, 2019
“There’s a much bigger story going on in our schools: young people who are fighting intolerance, who want to have programs in their schools, that allow them to meet their peers who have differences, who want to overcome the fear of difference, and replace it with the choice of inclusion. That’s what the Special Olympics movement is doing today.”
In this, its 50th year, Special Olympics launched a new campaign called The Revolution Is Inclusion. The org is asking supporters to take the pledge for inclusion and spread the word.
And based on the bipartisan public outcry and the president’s reversal of DeVos’s plan, we hope that message is being heard. That would be something that could lighten all of our burdens, in our own quests for inclusion as LGBTQ Americans, athletes and fans.
It certainly didn’t seem possible just a few days ago, as DeVos suggested Special Olympics would be better supported by philanthropy. “We had to make some difficult decisions,” she told Congress.
All week, DeVos defended the cuts on Capitol Hill. Then President Trump told reporters on Thursday, as he left the White House en route to a political rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., that he was overriding DeVos:
“The Special Olympics will be funded. I just told my people I want to fund the Special Olympics,” Trump said. “I have overridden my people. We’re funding the Special Olympics.”
The entire amount? We don’t know.
What about the other cuts to education proposed by DeVos? Her plan would eliminate 29 education programs, including one that operates after-school programs for low-income kids, one that provides professional development for teachers, and another one that helps provide mental health services.
We don’t know what’s to become of them. However, we can imagine that any one of the children impacted could grow up to be tomorrow’s Jason Collins, Layshia Clarendon, Billie Jean King, Ryan O’Callaghan, Robbie Rogers, Katie Sowers, Rachel McKinnon or Tom Daley.
What we do know is that being different from others isn’t something that should be shunned, ostracized, or eliminated. We all want to be included, accepted, celebrated.
All of us, not just those of us who meet some social barometer of orientation, gender, acceptability or fitness, or an arbitrary “biological” standard.
We are all of us competing daily to be recognized, respected, and afforded opportunity.
This is a cause we think is worth supporting.