Address to the Knights of St. Gregory

Hartford, CT | November 16, 2002

Break your mirrors! Shatter the glass in our society that is so self-absorbed, let us begin to look less at our own selves and more at each other. Learn more about the face of your neighbor and less about your own!

Thank you Susan for that warm introduction. I have known Susan for many years. She has been a tireless worker on behalf of Special Olympics Athletes not only here in Connecticut but all over the world.

Your Excellency, Archbishop Cronin,
My good friend, and Honorary President of Special Olympics Europe-Eurasia, J.P. van Rooy
Dr. Thomas Flynn
Members of the Knights of Saint Gregory,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Nineteen years ago I had the privilege of speaking before this distinguished group! At that time, I said, "Never has the opportunity been greater for Christians to embody the new, version of the "Good News of Jesus Christ", which is every one of you, yourselves". And I asked you to turn our society radically to Christ. That request is even more important today than it was 19 years ago.

Despite the work of well-meaning people on both sides, the Middle East is in turmoil! And, here in our own country, we have, for the first time experienced terrorism! Terrorists have struck our biggest city and our symbol of military power, and we are poised on the threshold of going to war in Iraq! So, what can we do, those of us sitting here tonight?

Here's my suggestion for your consideration, and, hopefully, your action:

Break your mirrors! Shatter the glass in our society that is so self-absorbed, let us begin to look less at our own selves and more at each other. Learn more about the face of your neighbor and less about your own!

You'll get more satisfaction from having improved your neighborhood, your town, your state, your country and your fellow human beings than you'll ever get from your automobile, your position, your house, or your credit rating.

You'll get more from being a peacemaker than a warrior. I've been both, so I speak from experience.

If the world is to enjoy peace for a long term, you, each and every one of you, and I, have to work to make that dream come true.

Martin Luther King said: "You ought to believe in something in life, and believe that thing so fervently that you will stand up for it till the end of your days!"

Be you doctors or lawyers, teachers or technicians, parents or politicians, I hope you will think and believe in just such a way about Peace, Peace, Peace!

Let Peace be the new vision for our times. Speaking as a veteran of the 20th Century and someone who has fought in many battles of World War II, I truly hope you will work to make the 21st Century famous as the first successful Century of Peace!

Pope John XXIII once wrote that to meet the great, social problems of the world, "It is necessary to arouse a sense of responsibility in individuals and especially among those more blessed with the world's goods!" Pope John XXIII meant you and me!

Some people think that poverty can be overcome from the top of society, that government or business or science can improve the human condition by hiring enough administrators, or stepping up the production of autos, or developing new vaccines. But real changes, real improvements have to come from the depths of society, from the confrontation and work of persons. That is something we learned in "The Peace Corps."

But it was "Special Olympics" that taught me how much of a difference one person can make. In thirty-four years, Special Olympics has expanded from its start with 1,200 athletes in Chicago, to 990,000 athletes, all with mental retardation, in 160 countries! No private philanthropy has grown so fast and so effectively in the entire 20th Century or at anywhere, or anytime! Never before in the history of the world has there been any comprehensive program for persons with mental retardation, of many of whom are also faced with poverty!

In November of 1999 Special Olympics Athletes from Israel, The Gaza and Jordan participated in the same Training Camp. On the second day of training, at the 5-a-side Football, Athletes were split into teams and jerseys were handed out: green to one team and red to the other. Each team had 7 or 8 members including substitutes, and each team had Palestinian, Israeli, and Jordanian Athletes!!! When the first goal was scored, both teams looked at each other. Then the team which scored joined in a great hug and all the coaches and parents cheered with astonishment! That was it: Special Olympics Peace Games! With all together in one unprecedented achievement! All together!

At a reception for the Special Olympics Athletes, coaches and parents attending this Training Camp, the famous Nobel Peace Laureate, Shimon Peres said:

"Let the politicians worry about borders and treaties. Tonight we are here to build peace on a human level. Tonight we are here to create peace among people! I learned that in Special Olympics there is a belief that everyone is a winner! This must be a lesson we learn now in the Middle East. In our search for peace, we must follow Special Olympics Athletes, because, in the search for peace, everyone must be and can be a winner! Let us dedicate ourselves to that hope!"

"Special Olympics" is now a Movement firmly dedicated not to charity, but to empowerment and dignity. We invite the rest of the world to give service not to our Athletes, with them to unlock their potential, to discover ability, to welcome difference, and to celebrate the giftedness of all human people. "Special Olympics " is now a Movement firmly dedicated not just to the joy of sport for athletes and families, but also to changing the attitudes of everyone it touches. We will ask all people of good-will who come into the world of "Special Olympics" to help usher in change and possibility for people with mental retardation in everything they do, and in every one of us so-called, "normal people".

Our need is for leaders of all walks and at all levels of life to commit themselves to embracing the new "Special Olympics " on their playing fields and in their gymnasiums, in their schools, in their communities, and in their lives everywhere!

If one American woman, my wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, could invent "Special Olympics," what's to stop any one of you from joining in the goal to reach more and more people with mental retardation as we strive for quality growth. All that is needed is an open mind, a new spirit, an uninhibited personality, a heart sensitive to the needs of the least of our brothers and sisters and children, and the strength to follow your own vision, not, selfishly, for your own benefit, but to help others.

I do not pretend to have all the answers. But, together, we can find answers if we are guided by vision of where we want to go, and what we want to be as a whole. It is a vision of freedom, of fairness, and of fulfillment for all! For all persons, everywhere!

Our country was founded upon a "declaration of independence". But, now all nations, in order to come together as one world, must make a "declaration of interdependence." Every nation must strive to play a more active role in resolving and overcoming recessions wherever they are.

We must turn away from a pattern of confrontation or grudging negotiation with all other governments different from our own.

What we need is a rallying together, a mutual struggle, not just a commitment to our country's candidates, but a commitment of all world citizens to one another, and to the entity which will represent us all, individually and collectively.

We must never forget that everything we do and say has the power to affect others. Even our smallest action, can have a ripple effect that reaches around the globe, for better or worse! Remember that each and every person must build with everyone else in mind. That sounds simple, but often we do lose sight of that truth. We get so caught up in our own struggle for success, materialism, and personal, individualistic gain that we forget the true meaning and purpose of our existence. That existence is not just about me! It is about us! How can we work together for the common good?

I want you to join in creating a "World of the Heart," as well as of the Head, a World free of racism, hunger, and despair, and selfishness!

Our world needs a call to peace and to service, peace and service on a scale we have scarcely begun to imagine. In the profound words of Jaques Maritain, "It is not by the sword that deliverance comes to nations; the sword cannot breed peace, it can only impose terms of peace. The forces that are to renew the earth must proceed from within, from the head, the heart, and most of all, from the spirit."

Everyone, who is old like me, is looking to and praying for you to renew the earth in your own new and brilliant and unprecedented ways. Many people believe that power comes from wealth and position, but real strength comes from your potential psychological advantage: from your hearts, your minds, and from your ideals, the belief that anything, and everything human is possible, and that you have the willpower and the energy to go out and make it so.

Please, unleash the power of all The Knights of St. Gregory from all nations to see the world for what it now is, and to help change it for the better! Let's join in common cause with all countries to eradicate poverty, selfishness, greed, fear and militarism.

Let's start today.