It’s Down syndrome awareness month, and that makes October kind of my favorite, because I love some pretty amazing people with Down syndrome. This special month got a big boost in publicity by none other than Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, on their tour of Australia this week. The couple, who also announced this week that they’re expecting their first baby, are also on their first royal tour together.
As this video from Inside edition shows, while touring the small town of Dubbo, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan met five-year-old Luke Vincent, who has Down syndrome. Usually, it is against protocol to approach and touch royals unless they are offering a handshake, but little Luke’s enthusiasm went way beyond the boundaries of protocol and could not be contained. Not only did Luke hug the Duke and Duchess, he also stroked Prince Harry’s beard, seemingly fascinated by it.
I love the way Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan gave this little sweetie their time and affection. Their royal tour of Australia is a very big, public deal. The fact that they gave a few extra seconds to a little boy with a disability truly says something, not only about their character but about how times have changed. I am betting that when Prince Harry’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II made her first royal tour of Australia in 1954 that any children with disabilities were hidden in the background. That’s not anything against her personally, it’s just the way things were back then. People with disabilities were not considered to be an important part of society or worthy of one’s time and attention, and certainly wouldn’t be front and center on a special occasion.
I love to see how inclusion is being represented here by little Luke and the fact that he was right up front with all of his classmates, eager to see and be seen by the special royal visitors. The truth is, as the cartoon below by Warren Brown for the Daily Telegraph potrays: people with down syndrome are wonderful members of our communities both in the United States and around the world. They contribute to their families, their churches, and their schools, and eventually their workplaces. When we offer these wonderful people the therapies and classes they need to reach their full potential, everyone benefits.
I am so glad that five-year-old Luke was in the right place at the right time when Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex visited his town. I hope their interaction with him will keep spreading around the globe with the good news that people with Down syndrome are more like the rest of us then they are different and that everyone is better for having them in our world.