Students to take initiative for ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ campaign

There are certain words that change meaning from generation to generation.

Today marks the first day for Special Olympics’ fifth annual “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, which is dedicated to recognizing the hurtful effects that the words “retard” and “retarded” have.

Dan Ekonen, Special Olympics Michigan director of outreach and school initiatives, doesn’t think people who call others those words fully understand the pain they’re inflicting.

“You grow up and hear people say it all the time, but they don’t realize how hurtful it is toward our athletes or others,” Ekonen said. “Students can be leaders by sticking up for others and saying it is offensive. They can make a difference by calling out others who use the words.”

The “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign was founded by college students in 2009, and continues across campuses today. The campaign begins every year on the first Wednesday of March.

For the campaign, Special Olympics Michigan has scheduled events in an attempt to remove the words from everyday language. The organization has partnered with the Detroit Pistons by having SOMI athletes form the tunnel for the Pistons to run through as they make their way onto the court of The Palace in Auburn Hills.

Illinois freshman Maggie Grant participates at many Special Olympics Michigan events and encourages others to act when they hear the harmful words spoken.

“As students, we should make it our responsibility to do our best to end those words,” Grant said. “Everyone should be sensitive toward those words because they have a huge impact on the people it affects.”

Brenda Mather, assistant director of Student Disabilities Services, said the end of the word starts with the students who hear it and choose to act.

“The word itself is derogatory and very hurtful,” she said. “It fosters negativity, and people who say it lack the understanding of how much pain it causes. Students have to stand up and go out of their way to say that it is not ok to use those words.”

Mather said she prefers the term “cognitively impaired.”

The next major event is the Detroit “Spread the Word” rally, held on March 26 at Dixon Educational Learning Academy in Detroit.

For further information about the campaign visit


  1. jace smith says:

    sorry…nice thought but i will not stop using the word. its a word. i obviously wouldnt call someone who is mentally challenged a retard, but there is a difference between a “retard” like Snooki or people portrayed in media acting stupid. a mentally challenged or physically/mentally disabled person is not acting “stupid/retarded” for fame or because they think its funny.
    its just a word! soon even “mentally challenged” will be a word we arent allowed to use because it will offend someone! omg you are so mentally challenged! – welp better erase it from the dictionary since someone is unhappy about it!
    im not happy about people calling me short…better erase it and start calling me vertically challenged! STOP BEING SO SENSITIVE! sticks and stones people…god lord we are raising a bunch of wimps.

    • It’s not a matter of being over sensitive it’s a matter that my brother with disabilities has asked for that word not be used. Along with him and millions of others do not like that word. Is that not good enough for you?

  2. The word “retard” as it is pronounced “ree tard” is not a real word. It is the bastardization of a scientific word that means to slow or stunt the growth of as in “That substance will retard fire.” I am not against getting rid of the word as it really isn’t a word, but I am against getting rid of perfectly useful scientific words like “retarded” or “retardant” How about we educate people instead of getting rid of words we don’t like? I tell my students all the time that “retard” used as a noun and incorrectly pronounced just makes them sound uneducated. There are plenty of words out there that need to be stricken from our lexicon (think racial slurs), but this is not one of them.

  3. Let’s run a thought experiment. People stop calling people “retarded” as a pejorative. Great. People will still call people something else offensive. Your slice of life will be marginally better, if any. By the way, people will still die from violence, starvation, diseases from unclean water. Focus on something more important than insults.

  4. Ah yes….you don’t like a word so everybody else in the world has to stop using it. How big is your ego to think it’s your right to infringe on other people’s speech?

    And the best part is the ‘calling people out’ when they use it. So your solution to stopping something you don’t like is by public shaming them and bullying them? That seems rational, instead of you not shoving your feelings and views down others throats.

  5. Putting a word on a pedestal is only going to empower it. That, and it is impossible to try to take away someone’s freedom of speech. Its almost like the NFL banning the “N-Word” on the field with a 15 yard penalty. Retard is a word that means to stunt growth, slow, or hold back progress. “My drive to Panama City Beach was retarded because I couldn’t pack fast enough.” Boomski. Ignorant people.

  6. “There are certain words that change meaning from generation to generation.” For sake of argument, lets say that certain words change meaning from generation to generation. “Retard” has now changed from just meaning ‘to slow progress and delay’ to a term that is derogatory and hurtful. Now, the word “nigger” and all its versions. If you are going to assume that words change meaning over time, then the way that word is used now, with embrace and to show friendship to another, is far different and it should be acceptable now? You are all hypocrites because I know you would not agree with that statement.

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