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Last Word on the MDA Telethon (at least for this year) – Laura Hershey: Writer, Poet, Activist, Consultant
Laura Hershey: Writer, Poet, Activist, Consultant Rotating Header Image

Last Word on the MDA Telethon (at least for this year)

Ego and Soul

Yes, the Telethon was bad again this year, at least the bits I watched. One thing that continues to amaze me is how big a role Jerry Lewis’ big ego plays, all the way throughout the Telethon. Here’s one late-night quotation that I bothered to write down:
“This child in the [Boston] Hospital had muscular dystrophy, and I went to see him, and he smiled when I walked into the room, and he grabbed my hand, and he said, quote, ‘I’m glad I got muscular dystrophy, because that’s why I met you.’ I rest my case. If there are naysayers out there, and if they’re uncertain as to the validity of my soul, trust me – it was a moment in time that takes me through the program in 2001 all the way through 2010.”

I don’t know anything about Lewis’ soul, “valid” or otherwise. I only know that his presentation of disabilities distorts reality, making it appear as though a cure for muscular dystrophy is both imminent and sufficient. In fact, what we need is a society committed to including and supporting all people with disabilities, regardless of particular diagnosis.

More Reasons to Disbelieve the Telethon

It’s not just the pity mentality that causes harm. As activist Nick Dupree argues in his blog, the Telethon creates an illusion that people with disabilities get everything they need, courtesy of private charity. As Nick points out, nothing could be further from the truth. Coordination and necessary equipment are sadly lacking, and vital home care and other services are being gutted in many states. And MDA itself doesn’t even provide what many people have come to believe it provides. Read the scanned copy on Nick’s site of the letter from the CEO of MDA, highlighting all the things they no longer offer to their clients.

Post Columnist Gets It!

Susan Greene just wrote an excellent column for the Denver Post explaining our objections.

20th Telethon Protest in Charleston

The stalwart activists of Charleston, SC protested the Jerry Lewis Telethon yesterday, just as they have for 20 years since the late great Harriet McBryde Johnson started raising hell about it in 1990. Here are some photos from the Charleston protest, and an unpublished letter to the editor by Harriet’s friend and colleague John Polito.

One More Word from Me

And here’s an brief video clip of me talking about the Telethon.

3 Comments on “Last Word on the MDA Telethon (at least for this year)”

  1. #1 codeman38
    on Sep 23rd, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Just as a note– the closed captioning on that last video clip is for the wrong clip entirely. (I couldn’t make out all of what was said, due to my auditory processing issues, but I knew it didn’t match the words on the screen!) Thankfully, Anna at FWD has put up a blog post including the correct transcript for the video.

  2. #2 Holly Salsman
    on Oct 27th, 2010 at 6:25 am

    Great post… I really hope more people read it, people need to aware that throwing five bucks toward a telethon doesn’t make thing all ok.

  3. #3 Barbara Jackson
    on Nov 29th, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Reading this article made me realize for the first time how superficial the Jerry Lewis telethon has become. It really does diservice for people with disabilities. As Nick Dupree states in his blog, it is an illusion that people with disabilities get what they need though private charity donations. The general public needs to realize that the MDA doesn’t even help provide much needed care, equipment, or resouces for those with MD and other debilitating disabilities. The telethon will continue to provide falsehoods and illusions to the basic public that throwing money into MDA coffers is actually providing a cure, when in actuality it does not.

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