Blind and autistic ‘America’s Got Talent’ contestant demonstrates inherent dignity of disabled persons


Though the America’s Got Talent stage has certainly seen a fair share of extraordinary performers, few are as inspiring as this season’s Kodi Lee.  During the commencing episode of the show’s fourteenth season, contestant Kodi Lee — a blind and autistic 22-year-old — stunned the judges with his beautiful rendition of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You.”  Singing from the heart and playing his own piano accompaniment, Kodi demonstrated remarkable musical mastery and an incredible ability to move his listeners through the power of music.  Left awed by the emotional depth of his performance, Kodi’s audience stood to express resounding applause as he finished his last note.

Following the ovation, America’s Got Talent judge Howie Mandel informed the blind performer: “I will tell you that all four judges and everybody in this room were up on their feet… You’re a great inspiration and a great talent.”  Judge Julianne Hough, moved to tears by Kodi’s performance, shared, “I really feel your heart, your passion.  Your voice blew all of us away.”  While all the judges had nothing but praise and accolades for the performer, judge Gabrielle Union went beyond mere words to give Kodi a truly special recognition of his excellence: a prized push of the golden buzzer, a guarantee that Kodi will progress all the way to the live shows in Hollywood.

Truly, Kodi is an exceptional talent; but the young singer was not the only star on the stage.  Both prior to and following his performance, Kodi made his way across the stage with the assistance of a walking stick in one arm and his smiling mother, Tina Lee, on the other.  Tina explained to the judges that, from an early age, Kodi would light-up at the sound of music.  Noticing this passion, she encouraged her son’s love of music, allowing him to grow into the phenomenal performer he is today.  “I don’t know what it’s like to live in Kodi’s world,” commented judge Simon Cowell to mother and son, “All I can tell is that you obviously have an amazing relationship, the two of you.”

Kodi’s journey to the America’s Got Talent spotlight is an inspiration: a story of success despite the discrimination directed against disabled persons.  As a blind and autistic person, Kodi has overcome incredible odds — not only facing the extra challenge that autistic individuals experience in completing day-to-day activities but also facing the legal discrimination against disabled persons.  In a particular way, preborn disabled persons are subject to unfair — and fatal — discrimination.  Elective abortion is inherently ablist, targeting those with ostensible “defects.”  In Texas, for example, the protection of the unborn against elective abortions past 20 weeks does not extend to preborn children suspected of disability; these babies in the womb, under current, discriminatory law, may be brutally killed through late-term elective abortion.  Under this deadly loophole, disabled preborn children — babies with blindness or autism like Kodi’s — are left unprotected in the womb.

Many who support this destruction of preborn disabled children through elective abortion do so under a dangerously misguided sense of compassion, arguing that the life of the child after birth could not be a fulfilling one due to disability.  Clearly, Kodi Lee stands as an inspiring counterexample to the destructive assumptions perpetuated about those with disabilities.  All human Life — regardless of sex, race, or disability — has inherent value from conception to natural death.  All human Life has dignity and deserves protection under the law.  Kodi’s beautiful performance, his awe-inspiring and emotional show of talent, simply serves as a touching representation of the inherent value and human dignity always present in disabled persons; and Kodi’s mother — rejecting the discriminatory, anti-Life assumptions about disabled persons, and embracing instead the beauty of her son’s life — serves as an example of heroic motherhood.

Regardless of whether Kodi Lee eventually holds the title as this season’s America’s Got Talent winner, his story is already one of triumph — a victory of Life within a culture of death.


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