It is time to “Spread the Word to End the Word” and on 31 March 2009 Special Olympics is calling for a national day of awareness for America to stop and think about their use of the R-word. That R-word is not “recession,” but something more hurtful and painful – “retard.” Most people don’t think of this word as hate speech, but that’s exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends. This word is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur. Spread the Word to End the Word will raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the R-word and encourage people to pledge to stop using it. America will be asked to declare their support for more respectful and inclusive language, specifically that referring to those with intellectual disabilities. Created by young people with and without intellectual disabilities, Spread the Word to End the Word is one element of Special Olympics’ vision of a world where everyone matters, where everyone is accepted and, most importantly, where everyone is valued. Leading the way in promoting acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics opposes prejudice and discrimination, continuously working to dispel the negative stereotypes associated with this population — the use of the R-word being one such stereotype. In a world that has worked to eliminate pejorative racial and ethnic language such as the “N word,” among others, the R-word is gaining popularity. On 31 March, young people across the country will lead local efforts to raise awareness and collect pledges on www.r-word.org from peers and the community to vow not to use the R-word. Actor and activist John C. McGinley, of the hit show “Scrubs,” is helping with this effort by making national media appearances on behalf of the campaign. On 2 March 2009, he appeared on "The Bonnie Hunt Show." Our choice of language frames how we think about others. It is time to respect and value people with intellectual disabilities. Change the conversation...stop using the r-word.