This unsigned editorial appeared online June 4 on the website of The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was written by Sam Lucero, news and information manager.
One of the most-watched reality television programs is the hugely popular “America’s Got Talent.” Each episode features several contestants who try to impress a panel of judges with their singing, dancing, comedy or other talent.
Each year, the TV show introduces performers who stun the audience and judges with their talent and inspiring stories about overcoming incredible challenges. It is these special moments that have helped keep “America’s Got Talent” on the air for more than a decade.
Episode one of season 14 premiered May 28 and included one of those inspiring stories, the performance of pianist and singer Kodi Lee. The 22-year-old contestant’s routine was met with a standing ovation, tears from judges and the elusive “golden buzzer” that gives a contestant a direct pass to the live TV finals.
What was it about Lee that captured the hearts of all who watched him perform Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You”? Lee is blind and autistic. Introducing her son to the judges, Lee’s mother, Tina, explained, “We found out that he loved music really early on. He listened, and his eyes just went huge. He started singing and I was in tears. That’s when I realized he’s an entertainer.”
“Through music and performing, he was able to withstand living in this world, because when you’re autistic, it’s really hard to do what everybody else does,” she continued. “It actually has saved his life playing music.”
It was obvious by the uncomfortable reaction of the judges — as Lee, bobbing his head back and forth, told them, “I’m going to sing for you on the piano” — that doubt filled their minds. “How could someone with obvious physical and developmental disabilities entertain a national audience?” seemed to be their collective response.
Yet, Lee did, indeed, entertain.
According to his promotional website, kodileerocks.com, Lee was born with optic nerve hypoplasia and survived a life-saving surgery at 5 days old. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 4.
Lee’s story affirms the belief that all life is sacred, even the lives of those born with defects. His story also should signal a caution for the practice of prenatal screening tests.
While these tests can help parents allay fears during pregnancies, they can also encourage the termination of a pregnancy.
According to Mayo Clinic, there are two types of prenatal testing: screening tests that can identify whether a baby may have birth defects, and diagnostic testing, which is a follow-up to the screening test and carries a slight risk of miscarriage.
In its online “questions to consider” section, Mayo Clinic states that screenings are optional.
“It’s important to make an informed decision about prenatal testing, especially if you’re screening for fetal conditions that can’t be treated,” it states. The first question to consider is, “What will you do with the test results?”
“Normal results can ease your anxiety,” the Mayo Clinic says. “However, if prenatal testing indicates that your baby might have a birth defect, you could be faced with wrenching decisions — such as whether to continue the pregnancy.”
A recent report from Iceland indicated that after prenatal screening tests were introduced in the early 2000s, nearly 100 percent of the 80 to 85 percent of women who took the test and tested positive for Down syndrome chose to abort their pregnancy. Similar termination rates were found in other countries, according to snopes.com.
God, the author of life, can surprise us, as he did with Kodi Lee. Despite his “imperfect” development, Lee moved an audience to tears with his talent. How many Lees have lost their opportunity to do the same?
The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the individual publication and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicPhilly.com, Catholic News Service or of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103