Jay Handlin recently tweeted about how proud he is of his daughter Rachel, who has Down syndrome and just completed her BFA at the California Institute of the Arts, better known as CalArts. I'm sure he didn't think his tweet would reach as many people as it did, but pretty much the entire internet showed up to congratulate Rachel.
In the few days since the tweet has been posted, it's reached mega-viral status, garnering nearly 18,000 retweets and over 210,000 likes. It's inspired others to not only congratulate Rachel but share their own similar stories. It's just a great big ol' internet weepfest, and it will warm your heart.
In his Twitter bio, Jay lists himself as a "fierce father" and a "disability / inclusion zealot." He couldn't be more proud of Rachel for everything she's accomplished. And don't worry, he doesn't actually want you to fight him.
In response to his original tweet, he clarifies, "It's an expression. Rhetorical. It means, essentially, 'I dare you to challenge what I said.' I intended to say it with humor, and I sincerely hope it is perceived that way."
Don't worry, Jay. We got it. Jay's tweet prompted others to share their heartwarming messages, including one of Rachel's teachers!
Are you crying yet? Because I am. If you're not, perhaps this will bring you to tears. "I could not love this more," one mom wrote. "A few months ago, my daughter, who is a high school junior and also has Down syndrome, found CalArts online and came to me, saying she'd found the perfect school."
Rachel is inspiring others just by being herself and working hard and attaining the the things she wants. Several people made sure Jay knows that.
"Thank you very much," Jay responded. "No fighting necessary :). Your daughter is beautiful. I wish her, and you, and all of the team advocating on her behalf strength and success! It’s a long road, but it’s definitely worth it."
How cute is Mavis?! Huge shoutout to all the supportive parents out there who know that just because their kid has Down syndrome doesn't mean they should give up on their dreams.
"You deserve the title as she would not be what she is without your love, support, and encouragement," one person wrote to Jay. "Congratulations Rachel and wear the proudest Dad title well, sir."
While it is true that Jay provided endlessly important support, let's not diminish the perseverance and hard work it took for Rachel to earn a BFA. That's not an easy thing to do. But you can see it in her picture; she was determined.
Sure, Rachel may have inspired other kids with Down syndrome and parents of kids with Down syndrome, but she's also a model for all of us. When you want something bad enough, you should go after it. If you work hard enough and follow through, success will follow. Congrats Rachel!