Dear candidate Harry Braun –
I recently read about your comments on Down syndrome in Iowa and wanted to share a little about myself. First, I am the father of a daughter who happens to have DS, Brianna. Interestingly enough, she is only a few months younger than Trig Palin, who I note you mentioned in this speech. Brianna’s diagnosis was a surprise at birth, but she has been one of the most amazingly positive and tranformational forces in my entire life.
In her first week of life, as we sat in the hospital digesting the diagnosis and her need for open heart surgery in a few months, nurses made it clear that Bri would not be given the chance to achieve and fully participate in America. They told me only Medicaid could provide her insurance with her preexisting condition and thus she would be required to live a life of poverty. As I sat numb in my hospital chair wondering what her future could hold, she taught me that her professional achievement might not be her most important feat and that she still had so much to give to this world.
I contrast this with your campaign speech, in which you stepped squarely on her face in an attempt to increase your professional achievement. Brianna will, indeed, grow up. Perhaps like Monica and David she will get married? Perhaps like so many developmentally delayed individuals she will go to one of the many growing college programs? We certainly expect her to do just that. We expect her to educate and better her self, we expect her to obtain a decent job and to have as much independence as she can handle and enjoy.
Brianna has endured her challenges – including six surgeries and four week-long hospitalizations for various sicknesses – and she has come out with an indomitable and positive attitude. She has endured over 600 hours of therapies – many quite painful and taxing – and she returns to each session with her zest for life 100% in tact. Last week Brianna graduated from her Early Start program and she will be entering preschool next month.
In Brianna’s short life she has achieved so much, and she will achieve so much more. But in order for her to be able to blossom into her full potential she will require the support of many people, her continued awesome work ethic, and thoughtful policy from our government and business leaders.
It is disheartening that you have built your energy and environmental policy on her back. It is highly unlikly that her DS was caused by our current energy policy. And even if it were, she would still be deserving of the full dignity of any human being. It is hard to imagine voting for someone who sees her as a “defect” or a “mistake” or someone who is subjugated to our other citizens. Afterall, what is the point of an ecologically clean environment if everybody’s mind is polluted with disdain and irreverence?
You asked the crowd if they want to have a child “like Trig…who will never grow up”. Brianna, like Trig, has DS, and I could not imagine my life without her – it would be robbed of so much richness. Brianna will grow up and she will achieve. On the other hand, if your thoughtfulness and consideration for others does not mature I cannot see you achieving much in your campaign but embarrassing yourself and hurting others. It is not acceptable to make my daughter the punchline of a political speech.