By: Victoria Sobolev
On Sunday October 26th, “Glee’s” Lauren Potter visited the University of Illinois’ Lincoln Hall to speak about her experiences as an ambassador for the Special Olympics, working for President Obama as a member of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities and her role as Becky Jackson on Glee. Amid light hearted jokes about competing with Miley Cyrus for the best dance moves and recalling her childhood passion for acting, Potter recalled some of the darker times in her life, including an incident in elementary school when she was pushed to the ground and repeatedly called a “retard”.
In addition to recalling that childhood incident, Potter focused on the issue of the use of the “r-word.”She spoke about Glee’s collaboration with the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign to film a public service announcement. The purpose of the campaign was to promote awareness for those with disabilities and to encourage others to treat them as they would anyone else: equally, and with respect.
The thirty second video clip features people of various ethnic groups, ages and sexual orientations saying that it is not acceptable to define them solely based on one characteristic, and that it is not acceptable to call them by a degrading name. Potter explained that calling a handicapped person a “retard” is no different than using a racial slur.
Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T549VoLca_Q
The “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign has been run by the U.S. Special Olympics since 2004. The campaign focuses on promoting awareness about those with disabilities and calling for compassion and the elimination of the “r-word,” saying that it has no use in our daily language. The campaign has been extremely successful and in 2009, the first annual day of awareness for “Spread the Word to End the Word” on March 31st was announced. Since 2010, “Spread the Word to End the Word” has officially been a partner of Best Buddies, an organization with one of its largest student chapters here at UIUC. Potter also has strong connections to Best Buddies and has served on their international board.
Lauren Potter ended her speech with the heartwarming declaration, “I want to live in a world where people care about other people.” Her hard work and dedication has helped empower thousands of people with disabilities to pursue their dreams, regardless of the obstacles that stand in their path. Her work with the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, as well as other organizations such as Best Buddies, has helped change the world and make it a more accepting place.