I am the proud grandmother of a granddaughter named Avery Grace who will be one year old this month. My granddaughter is a very active one year old, beautiful in all ways, who also has Down Syndrome. Because of Avery’s developmental disability you can imagine that I was very interested when I heard that the republican candidate for vice president Sarah Palin also has an infant son with Down Syndrome. To say the least this gave me a new interest in the youthful candidate and caused me to make a point of listening to her acceptance speech. I anticipated that she might speak about her baby boy and I was not disappointed.
When Sarah Palin introduced Trig alongside her other children at the RNC she said, “We were so blessed in April; Todd and I welcomed our littlest one into the world, a perfectly beautiful baby boy named Trig.” “Children, she said, with special needs inspire a special love. To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message for you. For years, you have sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.”
Sarah Palin in a few short sentences had grabbed my heart and my hopes and tears came to my eyes. I have to admit however that it was my emotions she had touched first and I had not yet had a chance to contemplate the gravity of her statements. The next day as I perused the blogs to see what other viewers thought about Sarah, I came upon this quote, from Dr. Mark Mosert. Mosert, a long time Christian advocate for those with disabilities explained:
Last night, “Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin put both her supporters and detractors on notice that people with disabilities would no longer be ignored in civic life.
Palin chose not to genetically discriminate against her unborn Down Syndrome child, Trig. She chose to show him off (proud mom that she is) along with her other children.
She faced the camera squarely and said what no other politician on either side of the aisle has, so far, been willing or able to say: That all people with disabilities matter, that they will no longer be ignored. That they have a rightful and unmistakable place at the table of civic life. That they are, before anything else, Americans.”
My heart was lifted by Mosert’s optimistic interpretation of Sarah’s message. In Mosert’s opinion the now VP candidate’s words represented sentiments that the families of those with disabilities could rally around. Palin was choosing to actively acknowledge the value of people like Avery and her son Trig in a society that has tolerated aborting 90% of all in-utero babies diagnosed with Downs. I tucked Mosert’s words away with Palin’s in my always hopeful grandmother’s heart and thought to myself “Thank God for Sarah Palin.”
Then on Sunday I was working the women’s ministry counter in our church lobby and I became aware of a young man passing me by. It was Brandon, a young DS man from our congregation and as he strolled by he shot me a huge smile and an elated thumbs up, “I’m voting for McCain” he told me with pride.
At this point his dad caught my eye and told me “Sarah Palin has given us all a good reason for getting politically active.” Brandon’s dad nodded in affirmation at his son and said, “Brandon’s over eighteen and he gets to vote.” “Yeah,” said Brandon “I’m an American.” And with that, father and son were gone and I suddenly found my heart pounding. I couldn’t help but think she’s like Queen Esther. “For such a time as this,” this young hockey mom from Alaska is gaining a platform to stand up for the rights of those with special needs not only that they might live but that they might be considered worthwhile contributors to our nation.”
Whatever your politics, take note, Sarah Palin is engendering the confidence of a whole population of people and their families. She is inspiring the hopes of a group who have desperately needed an advocate for years and her role is not being taken lightly. I am only one grandmother from Colorado and I cannot guarantee who will win this election. But I can tell you one thing: I am hopeful that regardless of who wins, our country will become a better place because of the light Sarah Palin has shed on all people with disabilities. It is my hope that in the future citizens like Brandon, Avery and Trig will be recognized not only for the value they bring to society but acknowledged as an important part of the fabric of this great nation.
Note from Author: Obviously the nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president has impacted my world and caused a reaction on many levels of my being. How has this unexpected and controversial nominee caused an impression on your world? How has she touched your heart? How has she caused you to think, differently perhaps? How has she touched your life? What hopes do you have tied to this influential woman? Please comment.