Address to the American Reinsurance Company Pro-Am Invitational

Newport, RI | September 22, 1991

Suddenly in the last quarter of the 20th Century, human beings are learning that every human being, no matter how frail, or handicapped, no matter how unproductive economically, or weak physically, every human being has a right to life, a right to a chance to fulfill his or her potential.

President Edward B. Jobe
Executive Vice-President Paul Inderbitzen
Vice-President and Tournament Director, Paul Johnson
Famous Golfers from the PGA
Distinguished Business Executives and Foreign Economic Leaders from Asia, Europe,
Latin America and the USA
Henry Moretti, special Olympics Athlete
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Tonight, I'd like to talk about "miracles". I realize, of course, that many, maybe most, people in our modern, scientific world don't believe in "miracles". But, friends, let me tell you, I do!! After a lifetime in business, journalism, law, diplomacy, philanthropy, politics, and government, I believe more in "miracles" than ever before in my whole life. Look at what's happening: --

Not one expert in foreign affairs predicted the collapse of The Berlin Wall, or the election of a playwright as President of Czechoslovakia. No one predicted the Baltic Republics would gain their independence now. No one had ever heard of Boris Yeltsin four or five years ago; but this year, he may appear on the cover of "Time" as their "Man Of The Year". Even in this gathering of experts on golf, I'll bet no one predicted that John Daly would win the PGA championship. (He got into the tournament only as an "alternate". The odds against him were at least 10,000 to one).

What's more I can guarantee the whole word that no one, not even my wife, predicted that mentally handicapped athletes would be playing Golf in 1991 in a program of training and competition sponsored by the PGA!!!! Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and his army, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, not even the greatest of them all, Jack Nicklaus, foresaw what's happening today -- PGA professionals teaching mentally handicapped athletes! It's a "miracle", my friends, a "miracle" that should make all of us happy and proud.

Why? Not because it's unprecedented, which it is; not because it proves the PGA has a heart of gold, generous, and charitable, which it has!! But, because it's a sign, it's a manifestation, that in this world of ours there's something going on deeper than politics, deeper than economics, deeper than war and militarism, deeper than the CIA and the KGB. Suddenly in the last quarter of the 20th Century, human beings are learning that every human being, no matter how frail, or handicapped, no matter how unproductive economically, or weak physically, every human being has a right to life, a right to a chance to fulfill his or her potential.

Hitler taught us there is no master race. Stalin taught us there is no master economic system imposable from above on every one below. In truth, we have learned there is no above and below!! Rather we have learned we are all together on this fragile, spinning, tiny planet whirling in a remote part of a Universe too vast for comprehension. Those with mental handicap have taught us that we can live together, and that we will be even happier doing so! That realization may be the greatest miracle of the 20th Century.

I say these things, my friends, in part because I never foresaw or predicted that Special Olympics would expand from my own backyard in Maryland to 110 nations, expand from my wife Eunice's vision involving high school students working with 100 mentally handicapped youngsters, into an organization with a million athletes, 10,000 coaches, 500,000 Volunteers, 350,000 parents and siblings, with support and endorsements from Gorbachev and Castro, from the Queen of England and the Pope in Rome, from every Senator and President of the USA and every policeman on the corner and every doctor in his office, and now to multi-national corporations as big as IBM, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Kodak, and American Re-Insurance, and even to business ventures as small as the corner drug store.

Never did anyone dream that such miracles would occur.

Why has Special Olympics grown so incredibly over the past 23 years? I think our worldwide acceptance is based on what Special Olympics is not!!

Special Olympics is not nationalistic. We play no national anthems. We wave no flags. We permit no computation of medals won by countries. It is individual effort and achievements that count.

Special Olympics, is open to competitors of all ages. We have medal winners who are ten, eleven, or twelve years old and others who are sixty, seventy, or even eighty!

We have competitors able to perform only at the lowest level of ability in what we call Motor Activities...persons who can only walk, not run, persons who can't understand the rules of "team sports"; and we have athletes who are now running, swimming, and jumping at levels better than the regular Olympic Gold Medal winners in 1896, 1911, and in the 1920's!!

Special Olympics is truly amateur, not professional. No money changes hands with our athletes above or below the table. No training or coaching fees are charged to the athletes. The coaches, referees, medical doctors, the starters and timers, the lawyers and accountants, the computer operators, and the publicists nearly all work for nothing.

The PGA has produced our training manual on "Golf" -- a book more than 100 pages long with illustrations, and with all the guidance for any PGA member to become an active participant or coach in Golf for mentally handicapped persons. I long for the day when our Special Olympics golfers will be playing with their families and friends on golf courses all over America. I predict that the day is not too distant when golfers with mental handicapping conditions will be shooting in the nineties and even in the eighties, -- good enough to beat me, sad to say, and many others with normal intelligence quotients.

The PGA has given Special Olympics money. They have given us coaches. They have printed our training manual. But this generous help is only the beginning, we hope, of a long and mutually beneficial relationship between our organizations.

Only in America could a "miracle" like this take place: -- American Re-Insurance, the PGA, and special Olympics working together for the good of the least fortunate in our land.

I'm so proud that our United States of America is the place where Special Olympics began. It’s American free-enterprise businesses, individual American contributors, and a private American foundation, The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, which has made this Special Olympics dream come true. Think of this: --

...Special Olympics is the only philanthropy invented in America ever to achieve world-wide acceptance!!

Moreover, Special Olympics is the only charity invented anywhere in this entire 20th Century to gain acceptance all over the world!!!

If those are not miraculous happenings, nothing is.

Let me close these remarks, my friends, with one final thought:--

We so-called "normal people" in the USA are called upon to prove by our actions that we practice what we preach...that all men and women are created equal...that they all are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, no matter how economically poor or mentally handicapped they may be...that among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...You believe these concepts and values. So does Special Olympics.

With your financial and psychological help and encouragement, we are demonstrating those values in Red China, in the Muslim World of the Arabian peninsula, in Indonesia, to atheists, agnostics, and skeptics wherever they may be.

Together may we continue to prove, by our actions and principles, that nothing transcends the value of the individual human being made in the image of God.

Nothing is more important than one Special Olympics athlete, or one worker with American Re-Insurance, or one PGA golfer who gives of himself or herself to the service of humanity. May we cherish and protect and develop human life in all its forms and shapes and stages.

Then we will surely be doing God's work on earth, and that is the greatest miracle of all.