* World Down Syndrome Day 21 March 2016, United Nations, New York
ANNAROSE RUBRIGHT: HOW I SEE MYSELF … A HAPPY AND PRODUCTIVE LIFE
* The following speech was delivered by AnnaRose Rubright on World Down Syndrome Day, 21 March 2016, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
AnnaRose shares her perspective on the importance of inclusion from an early age and in every area of life, her activism and participation in the WDSD16 advocacy video “How Do You See Me”.
Hello and thank you for coming today. My name is AnnaRose Rubright. I am 19 years old, the oldest of my parents’ six daughters, and I live in Medford, New Jersey in the United States. I am a full-time college student, and I work part-time at Breakthru Physical Therapy and Fitness. Much of what I have accomplished in my life has been because from a young age, I was included in every aspect of my life.
I have always been in inclusive classes, ever since I started school. My classmates have helped me with school projects, sharing notes, following along, and learning acceptable behavior. I also have had to work sometimes to get my teachers on board with MY educational goals. I had to show them that I want to learn. In 2014, I graduated from high school and got my diploma. I was a member of the National Honor Society and an active member of many clubs in my high school.
Sports are my passion. I started doing karate and playing softball in township programs. I had to convince coaches and my typically-developing teammates that I was an important part of the team. My first year, I had a softball coach who only cared about winning, and didn’t want some of the team, including me, to play at certain games. The next year I had a more inclusive coach, and we beat my old team in the playoffs! My favorite sport is basketball; I started playing basketball on the play ground in grade school with the boys in my class, including my neighbor. I have played on my special olympics team for years, but I also managed my middle school and high school teams, practicing with them and keeping stats for them. I was a varsity cheerleader my senior year in high school, and I play UNIFIED Soccer with Rider University and UNIFIED Basketball with Princeton University. I was invited by the New York Red Bulls to be in the US Women’s National Soccer Team ticker tape parade in New York City after they won the Women’s FIFA World Cup in 2015!
I have made lots of friends through inclusion. Some of my friends have been with me since grade school. Others were my besties in high school. I have also made friends in PALS, an organization that builds friendships between people with Down syndrome and typically-developing peers. My friends and I have fun together, and we also support each other during tough times.
I am also included in everything that my family does. I do chores, and babysit my younger sisters, especially my youngest sister, Rachael, who also has Down syndrome. I am included in my family and I am an adult.
For all my life, in my experience, inclusion works. Studies prove that inclusion works for everyone.
But, there is still a lot of work to be done.
I have made more friends because of inclusion, but I still rely on my parents and my family for transportation and often planning get-togethers. As my friends and I grow up, it has been harder and harder for me to get together with them. My sisters have busier social calendars than I do.
I am very lucky to have a job that I like and where I am treated with respect. However, I took my resume to places before Breakthru called me for an interview. I am very hard-working, and love to contribute, but many employers saw my extra chromosome before my work ethic and abilities.
Dating is difficult and has the same problems as social life.
High school was so much fun. I was in clubs, sports, and classes with all my friends. Once my teachers and friends got to know me, they saw how much I love to learn and how smart I am. In college, I have had much less support. I do not have a one-to-one assistant in college, and many times, I do not even have a note taker for my classes. It is difficult for me to share information between what I do at school and home.
For my seventeenth birthday, my then-boyfriend and I went to a local movie theater. We were seated separately because other people took our seats and the manager, instead of asking them to move, moved us to two separate seats in the back of the theater that were walking distance apart. I was mad because I was treated with disrespect, as if I would not care that I was not sitting with my date. I told my mom and dad, and Stefan’s parents, and we went back to the theater. They offered to refund our tickets, but I wanted them to treat people with Down syndrome like everybody else. So, we called AMC headquarters, and worked with them to train the employees. It took a lot of time, but it was worth it because I was able to make meaningful change.
Inclusion and activism has made me a better citizen.
I have enjoyed school a lot and I have taught my teachers and classmates a lot about learning and patience. I have also nominated my teacher in grade school for teacher of the year, and got one thousand dollars for my school.
I work at Breakthru Physical Therapy and Fitness, where I scan documents into a computer. This was a job that the office could not fill, because no one wanted to sit at a desk and do it. I love scanning documents. My coworkers call me, “Anna the Scanna.” I love working hard and knowing the process to scan documents. It was hard for me to learn at first, but now that I know how to do it, I can just go and go.
I also love giving back to my community, especially with politics! I am taking a class right now about American Government and Politics; I think that it is really important that everyone vote and participate in politics and make the world a better place. I have been a registered voter since I was eighteen. I am also a role model for other people with Down syndrome, and I have done community service all my life. My parents founded a non-profit that they named after me, called the Anna Foundation for Inclusive Education, that I also am a part of.
I also think that being included is something that everyone should work on. I have three tips for inclusion:
- The first is to DEMAND RESPECT. If you are somewhere and someone is being disrespectful towards a person with Down syndrome, or anyone, you should show them how to include people with Down syndrome and respect them as people.
- The next thing is to STAY FOCUSSED. When I was working with the movie theater, lots of people who heard our story just wanted to give us things to make us feel better: money, dinners out, special events. But it is important to stay focused on the problem so you can fix it.
- And the third thing is to THINK BIG! Don’t think about a small problem that just you are having: instead, think about how you can make sure that everyone is included, from now on. This can take a lot of time, but in the end, it is worth it, because inclusion is best for everyone.
I thought big when I auditioned for the CoorDown PSA, “How Do You See Me?”
[Image 1: AnnaRose Rubright reading for How Do You See Me. Image 2: Director Reed Morano with AnnaRose Rubright working together on How Do You See Me].
This commercial has inspired conversation around the world about how people see someone who has Down syndrome.
[Image 1: AnnaRose Rubright holding a sign with handwritten words “Athlete, Student, Advocate”. Image 2: AnnaRose Rubright with other self advocates and attendees of World Down Syndrome Day at the UN following her presentation holding signs handwritten with the words “Poet, Dancing, Education”, Actor, Singer, Dancer” (Shawn McGowan), “Apple of My Eye, Tathiana Piancastelli” (Tathiana Piancastelli). Image 3: Self advocate Maria Barbara Rondon Mendoza holding a handwritten sign with the words “”I see myself as independent, advocate to others, and able to see how beautiful life is.”]
Please enjoy “How Do You See Me?” playing now!
* You can read more about what AnnaRose had to say about participating in the How Do You See Me campaign and her perspective on the video’s message in her interviews with Self Magazine and The Washington Post.
[Cover photo © United Nations.]