Like any father who is proud of his daughter’s achievements, Jay Handlin sent out a tweet. His daughter Rachel graduated from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
But he probably didn’t know his congratulatory tweet would go viral.
His sweet tweet got more than 19,000 retweets and 224,000 likes with people offering their own congratulations to Rachel. Many even told their own stories of overcoming obstacles to reach a dream.
This is my daughter, Rachel Handlin. Tonight, she earned her full Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography & Media from the prestigious California Institute of the Arts, @CalArts. Rachel has #Downsyndrome.
I am officially the proudest father on the planet.
Fight me. pic.twitter.com/t39gY58Gqf
— Jay Handlin (@jayhandlin) May 16, 2020
The “Fight me,” at the end of the tweet was a joke.
Besides a proud dad, Handlin is a self-described “Fierce father,” and “Disability/inclusion zealot.”
He posted a clarification tweet:
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.
— Jay Handlin (@jayhandlin) May 17, 2020
One of Rachel’s proud teachers responded too.
Rachel was in my first lighting class I taught at calarts, im so happy to have been there to be a part of her journey at calarts. pic.twitter.com/ypFKGZdlpi
— Rafael Hernandez (@2071photo) May 17, 2020
Other comments called Rachel’s college diploma an inspiration for their own children who have Down Syndrome. “Congratulations to your daughter and thank you both for paving the way so my daughter can have the same future,” tweeted @bentman013.
Rachel’s diploma is a result of all the hard work she put in for what she wanted. Her dad loved hearing how she is an inspiration. “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,” he tweeted back.
Handlin has been Rachel’s support throughout her academic journey, but Rachel’s diploma is her own. To earn a BFA is no small feat and anyone can see by the determination showing in her picture, she knows it.
Congratulations Rachel! Thank you for being an example of not letting Down Syndrome get in the way of dreams.