Saturday, October 22, 2016

Can a Person with Down Syndrome win a Tony Award?  

I'm honored to have author, speaker, mother, and advocate-Mardra Sikora- as a guest writer here today!

“What is your goal?”

The keynote speaker, Dakota Johns, asked. Then he asked us to share this goal with those sitting around us. One person at our table said, “To write a book,” another said, “Take a family vacation.” My son, Marcus, said, “To win a Tony Award.”  

This is the first I’ve heard Marcus articulate this specific goal, although it didn’t surprise me. It may have surprised the others at the table. Then again maybe not, because Dakota Johns, the young man giving the keynote about how to achieve your dreams, has Down syndrome, as does Marcus.

Both of them have faced challenges and both of them have big dreams.  Dakota is giving speeches around the country and Marcus has already published his first storybook for children, Black Day: The Monster Rock Band. So why not?

Why not a Tony Award?

After all, Marcus has been working on writing for Broadway for, well, about as long as I can remember. Plus, this year’s Tony Awards seemed to speak directly to aspiring young people, by repeatedly spotlighting two things: possibility and support.

From the opening number, which focused on the idea of a young boy and his dreams, to the diversity of performers both featured and nominated. The awards were a welcome breath of reach. The theme that no matter who you are, in this realm, your dreams are possible, frankly brought me to tears. Tears of recognition for the possible.

The other common theme was support. This came from two very different places in our communal experience. The first because the Tony Awards were held on Sunday June 12th, the day our country reeled from the horrific massacre in Orlando. Frank Langella’s acceptance speech included, “Today in Orlando, we had a hideous dose of reality. I urge you, Orlando, to be strong, because I’m standing in a room full of the most generous human beings on Earth, and we will be with you every step of the way.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, an icon worth emulating, accepted his award with a sonnet that included, “We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. We rise and fall and light from dying embers remembrance that hope and love last longer. And love is love is love is love is love is love…”   

This support as a community, a palpable and essential social consciousness, encourages healing and growing and improving.

The other kind of support that was evident was the personal support that winners acknowledged. Daveed Diggs recounted that, “My mom gave me permission to do something that everyone else wasn’t doing and my dad supported me and made it possible, and I think a lot of us are here because people in our lives did that.”

Thomas Kail said, “I’m here because so many people said, ‘Why not this?’”  He also reminded us all to keep telling stories.  


That is a way of thinking that Marcus embraces. He’s not afraid to try what he loves. He’s not afraid to visualize his dreams. He’s not afraid of failure and, more importantly, he’s not afraid of success. He says, “Alright, I’ll try.”

The thing is, there are very few winners without a team.

Acceptance speeches go on because there are so many people who are part of the “winner.” Olympic medalists do not get to the podium alone. Because Marcus has an intellectual disability, assumptions are more often made about his “cant’s” than his “cans” – which is a shame, because his talents are valid and beautiful and deserve to be celebrated. Everyone needs a team; everyone needs support, that does not discount what each person can and does with their own talents.  

So, back to Marcus’ goal to win a Tony. Can a Person with Down Syndrome win a Tony Award? 

If it’s his dream, then why not?


This is a slightly revised post originally published by Mardra Sikora on Since this post originally “aired” I’d like to note that we have a few friends with Ds who have won Emmy’s, so…there ya go.

Thanks for sharing, Mardra! I hope he achieves his goal!- Evana
This post is for Down syndrome Awareness Month where bloggers write for all 31 days of October for Trisomy 21. I am part of this 31 for 21 challenge. During the month of October, the NDSS asks that we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make others aware of abilities and accomplishments. Individuals with Down syndrome have abilities that need to be celebrated!

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