I began reading Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most, by Timothy Shriver this week. Although I was generally familiar with the story of Rosemary Kennedy, I was not aware of how much she inspired her family to devote their careers to helping the most vulnerable. Dr. Gertrude Barber served on President John Kennedy’s 1961 “President’s Panel on Mental Retardation,” which heralded the beginning of federal involvement and fiscal aid to states. Their report, a landmark in public policy history, provided 112 comprehensive recommendations that covered prevention, treatment, social services, research, and education. This report also marked the first time in the history of the United States that a President would be called on to include children with intellectual disabilities in the nation’s schools, and to create a new system of support for adults with intellectual disabilities.
One of the most disturbing takeaways from the book so far is the depth of shame families experienced when they had a child with a disability. It’s hard to imagine trying to “hide” Ryan from the public. How could I ever be ashamed of Ryan?
Hence why I was very pleased to see a third-grader with Down Syndrome front and center as part of a television commercial for McDonald’s during the Super Bowl. And in recent years, Glee, a popular Fox TV show, has cast a new member who also has Down Syndrome.
We’ve certainly come a long way from the days of Rosemary Kennedy! I’ll share more information about Fully Alive as I read further, but even without finishing it, I believe this is a book everyone needs to read.