Achievements, accomplishments, and bragging rights. All of them pale in comparison to living and thriving with Down Syndrome, where every achievement and accomplishment is worthy of bragging.
Today’s commercial, for me, is more than just telling a good story, showing off a product, or having flashy visuals and audio. These are all important qualities for thirty seconds of advertising. But sometimes, a commercial doesn’t need these three factors to make advertising successful. Sometimes, a strong message and minimal frills is all that is needed.
This commercial (from 2000), for a nonprofit organization, stresses the important of education, research, and advocacy, as well as the aforementioned achievements, accomplishments, and bragging rights individuals living with Down Syndrome can gain, against the odds that were stacked against them not all that long ago.
This commercial is for the National Down Syndrome Society, and the spokespeople promoting the agency and its mission aren’t actually bragging about the great work a nonprofit like NDSS does, but rather…what they know how to do.
Meet these two spokespersons…
Television shows, movies, albums – there is nothing these two haven’t accomplished.
But Chris Burke has something else that helps him rise above Tracey’s accomplishments.
What is that, you ask?
Love his comeback.
If you grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Chris Burke should be an easily recognized face. Born in 1965 in New York, Chris was an actor, singer, and now works as an advocate. When he was born, his parents were advised to institutionalize him, but chose not to, instead giving him the opportunity to attend schools that guided him toward a fulfilling life, and raised at home by his parents, with help from his siblings. Burke wanted to be an actor from an early age, and performed in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” at his school. His family encouraged his aspirations, no matter how unconventional. He was the first actor in a primetime television show with Down Syndrome, with Life Goes On created after his appearance in a television movie. He’s been in films, made guest appearances on television shows, and has been a Goodwill Ambassador for NDSS since 1994. He starred in a series of advertisements for the organization, including this one with Tracey Ullman, which is actually from 1999.
The National Down Syndrome Society was established in 1978, and reached nonprofit status in 1979. Started by Betsy Goodwin and Arden Moulton, the inspiration was Goodwin’s daughter Carson (born 1978), who lives with Down Syndrome. At the time, there was a lack of support and resources for parents; hence, NDSS was formed. The organization provides support, advocacy, and education, and has four items of programming: The National Policy Center, The National Buddy Walk, Public Awareness Initiatives, and Community Programs. The organization is based in New York City, and operates to this day.
While so much progress has been made over the years, it all had to start with people determined to make the lives of those born with Down Syndrome the best they could be, with dreams that are attainable and fulfilling, like those of neurotypical peers. For the last 10 1/2 years, prior to the pandemic (and as soon as our office is able to reopen, I’ll resume my role), I have been working for a nonprofit (The Arc) that has done that for almost sixty years, for Down Syndrome and other developmental and intellectual disabilities.
But no one is showing off.
That’s Chris Burke’s job.
Have a great Throwback Thursday!