Letters: Why We Run For Office, The 'R' Word

NPR's Jacki Lyden reads listener comments from past shows about why we run for office, part-time workers, and the open letter John Franklin Stevens wrote to Ann Coulter on using the word "retard" as an insult.

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

It's Tuesday and time to read from your comments.

Last Monday, we talked with Special Olympian John Franklin Stevens about an open letter he wrote to Ann Coulter after her comments referring to President Obama as a retard. We got a wealth of feedback. And Bill in Houston wrote: I'm a music teacher in an urban school in Houston. And as you can imagine, these types of words can be heard throughout the day. I have a rule with my students that says that they're not allowed to use words towards each other in four categories: race, sexual orientation, weight or mental ability or disability. I remind the students that they're getting older and maybe encountering things that they've never seen for the first time. And although they don't need to accept them, they do need to tolerate and learn to live with them. This includes matters of homosexuality and mental handicap, because on the surface, one cannot always identify with these issues.

Carol in Corvallis, Oregon, wrote: As someone who has autistic siblings, I use the word retarded growing up as a metaphor for things and ideas that were stupid or didn't make sense. But I never associated it with something mean to say to a disabled person. I didn't stop using the word until as an adult I heard a friend using it as a genuine insult against a disabled person.

Also last Monday, we talked about different issues that face part-time workers across the United States. Meg from Austin wrote in, saying: The trend of hiring more part-time employees is not just affecting the retail and food industries. I work in health care at a free-standing emergency room. I was hired in to be part-time, working two to three, 12-hour shift per week. I've been begging for more shifts, but my employer has hired two additional employees. That doesn't give me more hours because my employer doesn't want to pay benefits. My hours for November have been reduced by half, from 14 shifts to seven shifts. Now, I'm searching for another part-time job or a full-time position elsewhere.

Riksa(ph) in Crawfordsville, Indiana, wrote: I'm one of those part-timers in a privileged position. I have a Ph.D. and I teach one course per semester at a liberal arts college. My pay is generous here at $6,000 per course, but many adjunct university professors are much less than that, often well under $2,000 per course, and, of course, no benefits. Relying on adjunct instructors saves an institution money in both salary and benefit, but the instructors can't realistically survive at such a low pay, even teaching three or four courses per semester.

Finally, last Tuesday, we talked about what goes into the decision to run for office. We asked you to share your story, and Mark in Holstein, Missouri, wrote: I ran for county commissioner for Warren County four years ago and it was great. Running for office is the best way to get your opinion heard, questions answered because you're invited to countless meet-the-candidate events. I got hammered in the election and it was a blast. Run.

If you have a correction, comments or questions for us, the best way to reach is by email. Our address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name. And if you're on Twitter, you can follow us there @TOTN.

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