On April 3rd, 1998, Ruggero Raimondi, a singing legend of opera, sang for the benefit of the Foundation. Father of a child with Down Syndrome, Rodrigo, this is how he spoke of his son. [Extract of the interview of 1998]
You have a little boy, Rodriguo. How did you receive the news when you were told your child had Down Syndrome ?
When my son was born I was very chocked because I gave a lot of importance to a malformation that, in the end, wasn’t much. The doctor said he would be a vegetable his whole life. If only he saw him today… I was lucky to be guided by Professor Marie-Odile Réthoré (Head of the consultation service at the Jérôme Lejeune Institute) who helped me to realize it was just a kid like any other, that he could be happy. Today, he is happy.
At the beginning, it is normal to feel discouraged. Then, you realize that the child starts crying whenever you leave, that he teases you and plays with you. He is like all the others children. That is when you start realizing he is the most precious of gifts.
How is his integration in society going?
One mustn’t be scared to put a child in contact with the outside world. That is how he finds his dynamism. I am shy and I used to be afraid of taking him out with us but my wife managed to convince me. I found out that Rodrigo liked meeting people very much and that he was always welcomed. Last winter, he even went skiing for the first time. What a pleasure to see him whizzing down the black trail.
I think children with Down Syndrome should spend the most time possible in contact with other children. However, I believe it is important that there exists specialized schools because these children will always be academically slow.
Your calmness is exemplary? Where does it come from?
I don’t know. The only thing I would like to add is that these children are so attaching. They find such pleasure in life. They are capable of giving out so much love. The big question I ask myself is whether I will be able to give him as much love as he gives me. Those children with physical malformations, I often wonder if they don’t have a better formed heart than we do.
One mustn’t be afraid of having a child with Down Syndrome because they give us a lot. Because we should love them spontaneously. The problem comes from us, not from them.