TO: NDSC Members and Friends
FROM: David Tolleson, Executive Director August 13, 2008

Two weeks ago, the National Down Syndrome Congress joined with other national disability rights organizations to address the new DreamWorks Studios film, “Tropic Thunder”. In conversations with studio executives, our coalition was led to believe that the offending portions of the film were minor and obviously satirical, and would have little impact.

However, last Friday, NDSC Resource Specialist Sue Joe and I were able to see an advanced screening of the film. Journalist Pat Bauer was also in attendance and gives an excellent overview of the film on her blog (

The offending parts comprise a major plot line and, as feared, are already leading to the sale of such items as t-shirts screaming, “You Never Go Full Retard!” On Monday, other national leaders saw the film. The coalition has called for a nationwide boycott. The first one was held last night at the Hollywood premiere. You can see CNN coverage at Pat Bauer’s website and view the Washington Post article at

In addition, this story has also been picked up by ABC News (, The New York Times (, National Public Radio (, Access Hollywood, and press in Australia, Great Britain, and elsewhere.

What can you do to help?

-Contact your local affiliate. Over the past week, we have been in touch with leaders from across the country. Many groups are coordinating their efforts with groups such as The Arc and Special Olympics, and protests are planned for today, when the film opens across the country, through next Sunday.

-Write an Op-Ed piece for your local newspaper, or a letter to the editor regarding discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

-Reading all of the hurtful and hateful comments posted on blogs in response to the boycott can be hard to take. But you could respond—tell your side of the story. Freedom of speech works in our favor, too. (When-our-new-computer-arrives-I-will-share-some-of-my-thoughts-on-this-movie-but-moreso-the-use-of-the-word-ret*rd)

-Consider contacting your local school principal and ask them to be on the lookout for disruptive “Tropic Thunder” merchandise or bullying behavior. A sample letter, provided by the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress, is attached.

-Does your local theatre employ self advocates? We heard of one theatre who has decided to pull the movie after speaking with an employee. Another theatre is allowing a self advocate employee to distribute literature to those attending the show.

-Share this excellent video, produced by 2008 NDSC Media Award winner Will Schermerhorn for The Arc of Northern Virginia:

-Visit Special Olympics’ new site Take the pledge to support the elimination of the word, and pass the link on to your friends so they can take the pledge, too.

-If you have a middle or high school age sibling returning to school, or off to band camp, football practice, etc., urge them to share with their friends why words hurt and why they should not patronize “Tropic Thunder”. This age group will be a key battleground.

-Sign the online petition at

Though we’re in a busy time of year, with the end of summer vacation and the beginning of school, I believe this is a watershed moment in the disability rights movement. It has been a long time, if ever, that so many national and local organizations have banded together to say, “enough is enough”. ANYTHING you can do is better than doing nothing. Please make every effort to lend your aid – and spread the news – right away. It’s time to put the nation on notice that we will not sit quietly by while our fellow self advocates, friends, children, siblings and co-workers are attacked. People with disabilities have rights and value, and deserve respect. Thank you for your advocacy.

David Tolleson
Executive Director


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