Here’s a feel-good story for you. Students at a high school in Missouri have voted to crown a 19-year-old classmate who has Down syndrome as this year’s prom queen. The Daily Mail reports:
Maisie has been at the school since kindergarten, and is extremely popular among the students in her year, many of whom who have known her since she was five.
Mrs O’Dell (Maisie’s teacher and mentor) said: ‘‘They all know her really well, they all help her when she needs it. The vote was pretty much unanimous’
Describing her as ‘the sweetest person’, Mrs O’Dell said Maisie has won the hearts of everyone at school as the morning greeter, high-fiving the students as they walk in the door.
She also volunteers at the school, rolling the teachers’ cutlery every morning and delivering the mail to staff.
But this story is more than just a heart-warming tale of a school rallying around a girl born with a disability, and that girl’s power to touch the lives of those she knows. In an age where over 90% of Down syndrome children are aborted in Western countries, the story has a powerful message about acceptance and the need to dispel the destructive myths that have come to surround Down syndrome.
It was only last week that infamous pornographer Larry Flynt publicly lambasted Sarah Palin for having given birth to her son Trig, who has Down syndrome. Flynt charged Palin with having done a “disservice” to American women, saying that Trig is “brain dead. A virtual vegetable,” and even called into question Palin’s status as a “compassionate conservative” because she didn’t have Trig aborted. (As if having someone killed because they don’t measure up to our definition of “perfect” is “compassionate”!)
People might respond that Flynt’s loathsome views are hardly representative of the views of the wider population. But how can that argument stand, when children with Down syndrome have practically disappeared from the West, not because a cure has been found, but because they are being callously killed in their mothers’ wombs for no other reason than that they have this “defect”?
The common view now is that those with Down syndrome will be unable to live fulfilling lives, and, what is more, will be an excessive burden upon their parents. In a frightening number of cases those with Down syndrome are deemed “unfit” to live, and their lives snuffed out before they even get a chance.
But how does this attitude jibe with the story of Maisie, Fair Grove High School’s latest prom queen? The News Leader reports:
Maisie’s father, Mike Garoutte, said his daughter was on top of the world.
“It was real sweet of those kids,” he said. “She was mighty proud of that crown. She’s got it right on top of her jewelry box. She’s just real thankful for this.”
As anyone who has ever met a person with Down syndrome knows, they are often the sweetest, mildest tempered, and happiest people in the world. Yes, they are unable to do a lot of the things that we have decided are “important” – such as having a successful career, being a top athlete, or enjoying stunning good looks. But shouldn’t the fact that so many of those with Down syndrome are happy (in fact, a lot happier than most of us) despite these “deficiencies,” force us to question whether or not our priorities might be out of whack?
Imagine, Maisie, the newly crowned prom queen, had a nearly 90% chance of never being born. Kudos to her parents for having accepted her and given her a chance to touch the hearts of so many.