Spread the Word to End the Word

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Spread the Word to End the Word
Spread the Word Logo.jpg
FoundedFebruary 2009; 10 years ago (2009-02)
OriginsSpecial Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit

Spread the Word to End the Word is a United States national campaign to encourage people to pledge to stop using the word retard.

End the "R" word advocates believe the use of the word “retard” in colloquial and everyday speech is hurtful and dehumanizing to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. According to R-word.org, "The R-word hurts because it is exclusive. It's offensive. It's derogatory."[1] They advocate for the use of language that respects the dignity of people with mental disabilities. Advocates believe individuals with cognitive disabilities are capable of enjoying life’s experiences and that causal references to the words retard or retarded makes a person with special needs feel "less than human." Many people who use the R-word to describe a person with special needs are simply unaware of how hurtful it is. While it is also hurtful to label someone as "a Downs Syndrome person," the appropriate terminology is, "a person with Downs Syndrome" or "a person with special needs."


The Spread the Word to End the Word movement was established in 2009 during the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games. The Spread the Word to End the Word movement was created by youth with and without intellectual disabilities. According to the Special Olympics:

“The motivation for the campaign was driven by a united passion to promote the positive contributions people with intellectual disabilities make to communities around the world combined with a simple call to action that also symbolizes positive attitude change and a commitment to make the world a more accepting place for all people.”[2]

On March 31, 2009 the campaign celebrated the 1st Annual Spread the Word to End the Word National Awareness Day. Across the country, students of all ages made a pledge to eliminate "retard" from their vocabulary and encourage others to do the same. In 2010, the 2nd Annual Spread the Word to End the Word National Day of Awareness took place on March 3, 2010.

In January 2010, the news of the past summer use of "retards" by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to describe liberal groups planning attack ads on Democrats was reported in the Wall Street Journal.[3] This led to Emanuel's apologizing to Tim Shriver, chief executive of the Special Olympics. A meeting was held with Emanuel, who was asked to visit www.r-word.org, and he promised to take the R-word pledge.[4][5]


  1. ^ "Special Olympics: Why Pledge". www.r-word.org. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  2. ^ "Spread the Word to End the Word". Special Olympics.
  3. ^ PETER WALLSTEN (2010-01-26). "Chief of Staff Draws Fire From Left as Obama Falters". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  4. ^ |Jeff Zeleny and Sheryl Stolberg (2010-02-02). "Emanuel Apologizes, in Wake of Palin Slam". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  5. ^ Christopher M. Fairman (2010-02-14). "Saying it is hurtful. Banning it is worse". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-10-24.

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