When You Choose Words, You Can Do Better Than the R-Word

The Huffington Post has been kind to publish some thoughts of mine in the past about the thoughtless use of the word "retard." When I was asked if I would write something for today's observance of Spread the Word, To End the Word, I decided to finish and make public a poem I have been working on for a while. I have modeled it on my favorite poem by Robert Frost. It is no surprise that you will probably find the last three lines of "my" poem to be the best three lines. Please be gentle as you judge a beginner, and remember the point is: when you choose words, you can do better than the r-word. Oh, and before you call me "Retard," go try and write your own Rubaiyat.

Rubaiyat of John Franklin Stephens

With this poem, which is my first, I rhyme to end a word that's cursed. But here, 'tis yours to judge, not mine, Whether, indeed, I am well versed.

I think it is the best of times, When now we stop to read the signs. Folks use the word "retard" far less Than when it was the worst of times.

Millions of you make me feel blessed That you have pledg'd to join our quest To spread the word to end the word, And, from yourselves, drawn out your best.

Yet still the curse'd word is heard, Where any else would be preferred, With power still to make us weep And feel as though our cry's unheard.

The word, still dark; the wound, still deep. So, we "have promises to keep And miles to go before we sleep And miles to go before we sleep."

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Special Olympics in conjunction with Spread the Word to End the Word awareness day on Wednesday, March 2. To find out more about the Spread the Word campaign, please visit the website. Join us in taking the pledge at R-Word.org.