Speech at the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau

Raleigh, NC | July 15, 1998

Moreover, the sun never sets on Special Olympics! Special Olympics goes on night and day...every day...in 26,000 communities throughout the world from Moscow to Bangkok, from Harare to Lima, from London to Valparaiso.

Reverend Doctor David Forbes;
The Honorable Tom Fetzer, Mayor of the Great City of Raleigh
Chairman John Converse, Wake County Board of Commissioners
Jim Payne, our emcee for this marvelous event
Jim Lofton, Chairman of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor's Bureau
Gordon Smith, Chairman of the Board of Directors of "Exploris", and
former Peace Corps Volunteer

On July 20, 1968, just 30 years ago, The Special Olympics "Flame of Hope" was ignited for the very first time at our first International Games. Those Games were held in Chicago where my wife, Eunice, and I had lived and where our first children were born.

One thousand young men and women from 26 States and Canada took part in that competition. Twelve of those first Special Olympics athletes were from North Carolina, and two of them are here with us today: --

Marty Sheets and Mike Stone, both from Greensboro.

Marty and Mike, will you please stand!

Marty is a power lifter and a golfer. At the 1987 World Games, Marty led Team North Carolina into Notre Dame Stadium. He has received many honors since then, including serving as Grand Marshall for the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Special Olympics held at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Mike Stone is a golfer and participated in the 1995 World Games. Currently, Mike works at the U.S. Postal Service. In addition to competing as an athlete, Mike volunteers his time to Special Olympics as a Global Messenger. In that role, he has delivered hundreds of speeches and educates the public and his peers about the Special Olympics Movement.

Let us all celebrate these Special Olympics Athletes for their impressive achievements.

I am also grateful to the dedicated and successful men and women who have come here today to listen to, and to talk about the facts concerning the Special Olympics Movement. Those two words, -- "facts and Movement" summarize the qualities and reality of Special Olympics.

The facts are hard-to-believe. No one, I repeat, no one in 1968 when Special Olympics held its first Games, anticipated what has actually happened. For example: --

Special Olympics may be the last truly amateur, world-wide, sports program. No money changes hands with the athletes, above or beneath the table. Not even an entrance fee is charged to the thousands of spectators who attend our World Games -- 70,000 just for the Opening Ceremonies of the 1995 Special Olympics World Games! In 1968, no one had ever seen such an event involving persons with Mental Retardation.

The coaches, the referees, the medical doctors, the police officers, the starters and timers, the lawyers and accountants, the computer operators and the publicists, all worked for nothing! No sports organization has so many volunteers -- over 500,000. They give of themselves just as the athletes do, for the love of sport, and for one another, true amateurs in their hearts and actions.

Moreover, the sun never sets on Special Olympics! Special Olympics goes on night and day...every day...in 26,000 communities throughout the world from Moscow to Bangkok, from Harare to Lima, from London to Valparaiso. Even as you hear these words, Special Olympics' training and coaching are in progress far to the West of us. Rome was not built in a day. Neither is a Special Olympics athlete.

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

Fourth. Special Olympics is open to competitors of all ages. So, we have medal winners who are nine, ten, and up to eighty years of age. And we have winners who are able to compete only at the lowest level of physical ability in what we describe as the "Motor Activities Training Program".

Fifth. Every Special Olympics' athlete has the chance to win, as they compete in divisions only with athletes of the same, or approximately the same, ability. Special Olympics is also totally free of performance enhancing drugs. Although we demand the best from everyone and we emphasize that competition brings out the best, we're not interested in victory achieved by drugs. Why? Because we are interested in enhancing the innate abilities of everyone, increasing their self-esteem and self confidence, and improving them physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

Sixth. Our philosophy does not include the belief that sports are an end in-and-of themselves. We do not permit sports to dominate us or our athletes. We use sports to help people develop, not to inhibit or conflict with their development in other areas.

Seventh. Special Olympics involves the parents and siblings of our athletes. Families help to coach and train their Special Olympics athlete. They provide transportation. They sit on Boards of Directors. They raise money. Twelve thousand parents and siblings attended our 1995 Special Olympics World Summer Games! They were housed, fed and transported, free-of-charge, by volunteer hosts and families. They wore T-shirts proudly announcing that they were parents of a Special Olympics athlete. They sat in specially reserved seats.

Eighth: In 1988. Special Olympics was formally recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). We are the only sports organization, other than the International Olympics, authorized to use the word "Olympics" in our title!

Ninth. Special Olympics lights a candle of hope for all of the 175 million people with mental retardation now alive in the world. They know that what Special Olympics athletes do today they will be able to do some day in their own towns and cities. They know that Special Olympics recognizes the "God-given beauty" inside every human being.

When my wife started Special Olympics back in 1968 no one had ever heard or dreamed of "Unified Sports". It was also years before experienced and competent coaches and leaders, within the Special Olympics Movement itself, suddenly realized that thousands of athletes within Special Olympics were as good or better athletes than many athletes of normal intelligence outside of Special Olympics. So these athletes and coaches said, "Let's put us all together."

Today, 50,000 persons with normal intelligence are playing competitive sports with 50,000 mentally retarded persons! Basketball teams, bowling teams, soccer teams, golf teams, tennis teams, now exist with 50% of their athletes of normal intelligence and 50% with mental retardation. These athletes play their sports together! And after the athletic contests they eat and drink together, talk together, plan for their next games together, often go to the movies together, visit one another's homes and families together.

Professional educators, not only athletic coaches, say that "Unified Sports" has brought human beings together who never before knew that such other people existed on earth!!!

Some academic institutions now offer courses, and lectures, on the medical, Legal, and spiritual, or theological, rights and qualities of persons with mental retardation. This specific area will be featured as part of your Games here in North Carolina. You will provide intellectual leadership to universities in our country and abroad.

At the 1995 Games held at Yale University and other Connecticut colleges and universities, "Special Olympics" inaugurated this Academic initiative. North Carolina will be expanding and deepening this Academic Movement. Religious institutions and leaders are also endorsing "Special Olympics"! They emphasize that "Special Olympics" offers "testimony of the ability of human family to overcome differences and divisions, to work together in serving the needs of others, and thus build a culture of solidarity and peace."

Those words from Pope John Paul II are not unique among world religious leaders. His Eminence, The Grand Imam, Sheikh Al-Azhar, of Egypt, has also endorsed Special Olympics.

Soon we expect religious leaders from Israel, Constantinople, Moscow, South Africa, from the Hindu religion, to join with their endorsements. None of these realities were ever anticipated even by my wife, Eunice, when she started Special Olympics in 1968. But one human being from the very beginning of Special Olympics in 1968 did anticipate what has happened as the Movement, has grown around the world.

In the midst of the first Games in 1968, the famous Mayor of Chicago at that time, Richard J. Daley, turned to my wife seated next to him in the Grandstand and said to her: -- ..."Eunice, after these Games the World will never be the same..."! I thought he was just being polite. But it turns out, Mayor Daley was right! Little of our progress could have been achieved without extraordinary financial help.

Today, Special Olympics in the USA alone raises $100 million. Outside the USA another $100 million is raised.

No one, not even my wife, Eunice, ever dreamed that topside businessmen would come seeking work with a charitable enterprise like the one she started in 1968. But that does seem to be happening. North Carolina is an eminent example of the Special Olympics spirit:

In Heart, in Body, and in Soul:

In Heart because of your financial generosity and your human concern for all people;

In Body because of your dedication to those least endowed with physical strength and intellectual abilities, and

In Soul, because, in addition to heart and body, you exemplify the necessity for spiritual strength in every one of us, and in all we do!!

No wonder your Governor, members of his staff and his Cabinet, eminent chief executives of top businesses, and fabulous athletes like Michael Jordan and Grant Hill all endorse Special Olympics and all are seeking help from women and men like everyone in this audience this afternoon. They know that with your individual abilities and generosity North Carolina's World-Wide, Special Olympics Games will inspire and enlighten the entire world.