As part of the “TODAY” show’s #InspiredBy series, where anchors are honoring the people who inspire them, Savannah Guthrie spoke on Tuesday’s segment about her late uncle who was born with Down syndrome.
“When you love somebody who has a disability, and you experience how they experience the world, it's instant perspective about how to make life wonderful even when you've been given incredible difficulties,” Savannah said.
When Pierce Franklin Long Jr. (or “Uncle Pierce” to Savannah and her siblings) came to live with the Guthries after Savannah’s grandfather and father both died, the transition for all involved was difficult. But Pierce’s “emotionally wise and sensitive” nature helped to ease the transition, shared the anchor.
According to Savannah’s sister Annie Guthrie, Pierce had an “exceptional sense of humor…almost mischievous,” and his “simultaneously serene and exuberant” personality reminds Annie of sister Savannah in a lot of ways. “I think she has this incredible, deep calm that sets people at ease,” Annie said.
Uncle Pierce lived into his 60’s and his lust for life and kind disposition has made Savannah an active advocate for the National Down Syndrome Society.
“Advocacy matters so that people understand what this condition is and aren't afraid," she said. "When you look at what people with Down syndrome are doing now, living on their own, having jobs, having families, having relationships, it takes your breath away.”
And the co-host credits her current gig for allowing her to be a public voice for individuals like her uncle. “If I can be a voice to say you should get to know that person who has Down syndrome because your life may be dramatically transformed for the better, then I'd like to be that voice,” she said