Thursday, May 29, 2008

Self-Advocacy Supreme

Brett Branford is a young man with piercing, intelligent brown eyes. He has a smile that wraps itself around everyone in his universe, and the joy that seems inherent in him is transfused into others.

Brett auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance, and was featured on the show last night.. As he stood in line in the cold Salt Lake City weather, he jumped around and did some karate moves to keep warm. When it was finally his turn to take the stage, the other people who had been standing in line with him stood up, high fived with him, and yelled words of encouragement.

Brett said ‘Cue the music’, and started his dance routine, a routine that contained a strong flavor of martial arts and an energy that made me tired just watching. When his audition was over, the head judge, Nigel Lythgoe, “You want honesty, right?” Brett nodded and said “Yes”. Nigel went on to say “You are a really good mover and have excellent musicality. If you were in a club, you would do brilliantly and all the women there would want to dance with you. But, you’re just not good enough for this competition.” The other two judges agreed, but told Brett that he should keep dancing and not give up. The other competitors waiting in the auditorium for their auditions stood and cheered – louder than I’ve heard any cheering since this season’s auditions began.

Just before he left the stage, Brett asked to say one more thing “real quick”, in his words. Without waiting for an answer, he said “I wanted to be here to prove that people with disabilities can have a normal life and can live it.” The crowd cheered even louder than before!

Brett has Down Syndrome. He is a global ambassador for the Special Olympics, and in his mother’s words, is a self-taught advocate. And based on my short glimpse into his life, I believe he is one of the finest self-advocates I have ever seen. He was articulate, more so than some of the other non-disabled competitors. He radiated passion and intelligence, and his grace and style had everyone in the auditorium smiling. The pride his mother felt glimmered in her tears as she watched her son making a difference and touching people’s lives. And he was a damn fine dancer!

As Brett and his mother walked away from the audition location, Brett’s final words were “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about having fun.” It was obvious that Brett was having fun, and in my eyes, he is indeed a winner.

And once again, thanks to the producers and judges of So You Think You Can Dance. I hope others will follow your example of respect for the talents inherent in all people.


Casdok said...

Hear hear!!! :)

Anonymous said...

What an impressive young man!