the great American hero

Some words are used so often their meaning is diminished — words like “unimaginable,” “war,” or “amazing.” Each is used with such a frequency, that it seems to water down what the word was originally intended to describe.

A “hero” is one of those words to me. A hero is a noble man or woman admired for their courage and outstanding achievement. Combine that with the coming close of another year, a time when many name their “person,” “sportsperson,” etc. of 2017. For CNN, they name a “Hero of the Year.”

Instead of selecting the person most in the news or making any statement with their selection, CNN annually honors a person who has made extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and/or has made a huge, marked difference in their community. Meet this year’s winner, Amy Wright.

Amy’s two youngest children have Down syndrome. In January of 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina, Amy opened “Bitty & Beau’s Coffee,” named for the two. The coffee shop employs 40 disabled workers.

“My children are not broken,” Wright insists. “When you become a parent of a child with special needs, you are instantly thrust into becoming an advocate — trying to make people see the beauty in their lives that we see.”

That’s it; is it not?

When we look at a person with special needs, we often look at their life as something worse. We conclude in our heads somewhere that their quality of life is somehow lesser. We don’t see beauty first.

Look at Iceland. CBS actually ran a report last August (addressed by the Intramuralist) boasting how Iceland is close to “eradicating Down syndrome.” The “eradication” was due to prenatal testing and abortion.

No, we don’t see beauty first.

As CNN said yesterday in their announcement, Wright “reframes how we view disability.”

In CNN’s tribute show, in fact, Wright spoke directly to Bitty and Beau, saying, “I would not change you for the world, but I will change the world for you.”

Wright sees the beauty in her children first. She sees what they can do — not what they cannot She doesn’t view their life as any lesser.

Wright elaborated with CNN host Alisyn Camerota:

“‘It is a very personal story for me,’ Wright told Camerota. ‘When Beau was born 13 years ago, my husband Ben and I didn’t know anything about Down syndrome, and I reflect on that and the fear we felt and the grief we felt and how we transformed that into some of the greatest joy we’ve known in our lives.’

Wright and her husband were inspired to act on behalf of people with disabilities when they learned about the lack of opportunities within the population.

‘You use a statistic: 70 percent of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities like Down syndrome, like cerebral palsy, like autism are not employed, and so what kind of life is that?’ Camerota asked.

‘It’s not that the jobs aren’t there, it’s that people don’t value people with intellectual and developmental disabilities [IDD],’ Wright said. ‘And so, if we can reframe the way people think about people with IDD, then opportunities are organically going to follow.’”

Reframing how we think…

Reframing how we view quality of life…

Reframing how we see beauty…


Reframing who actually is a hero.

Well deserved, Amy Wright. Well deserved.