You'll find hundreds of files on cleft lip, cleft palate here on

This one is about: Tips For a Letter-Writing Campaign

(c) 1997 Wide Smiles
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by Joanne Green

On October 14, 1997, the CBS Evening News did a broadcast that told of the atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust. In that broadcast they told how persons with birth defects, including cleft lip, were deemed unworthy to contribute to the "perfect" Arian race, and were therefore exterminated. Cleft-talk decided to take action in the form of a letter-writing campaign. The same tips shared for writing letters to the CBS Evening News can be adapted for use ANY time a person wishes to right a wrong. The following are letter-writing tips shared for that campaign:

Our letters should be aimed more at educating them than attacking them -- why???? Because an attack begets a defensive posture. If our goal is to hurt them because they hurt us, then we would attack. But that's not our goal. Our goal is to change the behavior, and that is done through education.

My suggestions for letter writing are as follows:

1. Introduce yourself and identify your expertise ("I am mom to a child with a cleft...." or, "I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate...")

2. Let them know that you appreciate the things they do well - - thank them for the positive things that they have done ("thank you for bringing attention to the horrors of genocide practiced during the holocaust....")

3. Be specific about your concern, and put it into perspective - ie, they did not blow the entire broadcast - they are not being stupid, vengeful, cruel or unusual. They were, however, remiss in their understanding and use of a term that is now considered to be inflammatory by many.

4. State the facts as objectively as you can. ("One in 700 persons are born with a clefting condition....." "Historically, the association with a Hare - long considered to be a Witch's Familiar - has created a negative stigma that resulted in much the same kind of treatment that occured again during the holocaust. Persons with cleft were branded as witches, as were their mothers, and they were subsequently hunted and killed...")

5. Give them an alternative. ("The term now preferred by most of the people who are personally affected by clefting conditions is 'cleft lip and/or palate'.")

6. Let them know your expectations -- or make them an offer. ("I will be watching for an apology..." "Given the large numbers of people affected by cleft, and given the relative lack of information available to most of them, I suggest you enlighten your audience by contacting Joanne Green at 209-942-2812 for an interview...." or "Please go to for more information concerning cleft lip and palate..."

7. Above all else, and throughout your letter -- be sincere. If it made you angry, tell them it did. If it hurt you deeply, tell them that. Make sure the words AND the sentiments are YOURS.

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