Freedom from Want Medal

Acceptance Speech by

Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Of the Freedom from Want Medal

Hyde Park, New York

October 22, 1993

Thank you Raymond Lamontagne, Trude Lash, Arthur Schlesinger, Bill Vanden Heuvel and members of the Roosevelt Institute for your gracious welcome.

It is a delight to be here with so many old friends, and I congratulate the other recipients of the Four Freedoms Award. I accept this award on behalf of all mothers and fathers of special children, the special persons themselves-and all who love them. I give this award to them in spirit, for love like theirs is the phantom we all seek.

Coming here to Hyde Park brings back many warm memories of my family's association with the Roosevelts.I was a teenager in the years of the New Deal. In 1934, President Roosevelt appointed my father as Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, then Chairman of the Maritime Commission and finally, in 1937-much to the great joy of his children-Ambassador to the Court of St. James in London.

President Roosevelt recognized in my father high intelligence and dedication to public service. Together they forged a friendship and partnership which benefited the country.

So, in a sense, coming here today is coming back to where so much began for our family too.

At his acceptance speech of the Democratic Nomination in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt pledged himself to "A New Deal for the American People."

In 1968 when Special Olympics began, it too was a new deal-a new deal for people with mental retardation. Under the old deal, they were pushed out of sight and told that their lives were hopeless.

The new deal of Special Olympics-like the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt-has rejected that despair.

Special Olympics shows us that people who are mentally retarded are extraordinary human beings-and the world has taken to its heart their shining example of striving against all odds-whether it is a boy with fetal alcohol syndrome who learns to swim and wins a gold medal, or the girl with cerebral palsy who competes in a marathon.

Imagine, for a moment, yourself at a Special Olympics event. Imagine watching a 100 meter dash where six athletes charge down the track with all the energy and passion which God gave them.

Imagine the weeks of training behind the race: learning not to be stunned by the sound of the gun; to stay the course in the lane; to stride with arms and legs in correct position; to persevere until the finish line-and then to congratulate, at the end, your fellow competitors.

And then imagine the faces of the winners, first through sixth, with times ranging from 12 to 15 seconds. Some are excited, some are disappointed, some are angry.

Now imagine your own feelings at seeing this race, run by those who face challenges sometimes so large and imposing. Sometimes the spectators feel tears, other times fear, other times anger or excitement-but never is a spectator unmoved.

Here, today, you have generously recognized me. But really you have chosen to recognize these men and women and their vision and their courage and their character.

They carry a message the world hungers for:It is a message of hope-where before there was hopelessness;

It is a message of openness-where before there was hidden pain;

It is a message of trying-where before there was giving up;

It is a message of acceptance-where before there was rejection.

And it is a message of communities and nations coming together, where before there was hatred and suspicion.

I believe that this new moral revolution-like the moral revolution of Franklin Roosevelt's-is as powerful as any economic, political, or social movement the country has yet seen.I believe each of you can extend these principles of democracy and this moral revolution.

As individuals, will you welcome our special friends into your workplaces, into your churches, temples and community centers? Will you encourage your sons and daughters to accept special persons in their schools-and to join them in sports clubs and competitions?

We have, yet, a long journey to travel. Let's not wait to reach out and take a special person's hands in tenderness and generosity. In Special Olympics we have learned one truth: whatever success you gain in life, no one does it alone. We do it together.

On behalf of all the world's Special Olympians, thank you very much.