Remarks: 1979 World Games

Mrs. Eunice K. Shriver

International Special Olympic Games - August 9, 1979

Brockport, New York

President Brown, Postmaster General Bolger, Members of Congress, distinguished ambassadors, Special Olympians, parents, friends...

This is a marvelous day for Special Olympians and particularly for their parents. My only regret is that my parents are not here. For it was they who gave to my sister Rosemary the dignity, the love, the pride in accomplishment that are at the very core of Special Olympics.

Each of you knows, in the most personal ways, what this challenges means. But you know, just as surely, that you are not alone. You parents, your family, your coaches and teachers, and your fellow Special Olympians share your hopes and welcome your success.

Every parent is called on to make sacrifices in the name of love. But the parents of Special Olympians have done more: they have challenged the spirit of the times. Most people say intellectual achievement is the measure of a human life. I believe that's wrong. So do your parents. You are proof that their commitment has been to the values that count and will endure. Courage, sharing, skill and joy.

Tonight we stand here in the presence of 5 Olympic gold medal winners. They are among the best athletes the world has known. But tonight they are here to salute you and to honor you as their equals. For great world athletes like these who enter the Olympic Games, the contest may only last minutes then it is over and these men and women have won or lost, but for you Special Olympians the contest can last a lifetime, the challenge begins again each day. What you are winning by your courageous efforts is far greater than any game. You are winning life itself and in doing so you give to others a most precious prize - faith in the unlimited possibilities of the human spirit.

Let me tell you a story. Recently I attended the Texas Special Olympics in Austin. During the program. A very quite, young, black man named Johnny Jones came up to me and put something in my hand. It was a shiny leather box. I opened it and found the gold Olympic medal he had won in Montreal representing the United States in the 400 meter relay, -- a first place medal in world competition. He said to me, "Mrs. Shriver - I want to give this to the Special Olympics of Texas."

"The thing is," he said, "we athletes don't always appreciate our gifts. But coming out here makes you think, it makes you do whatever you can to help."

"But why your medal?" I asked.

And he answered, "right now I don't have a lot of money. But I have the medal. And by giving that I'm giving a part of myself. Other people can give money and time - but this medal means so much. It seemed like the least I could do."

That spirit shown by Johnny Jones isn't his alone. It is yours to give; to your fellow athletes and to us all. For this we honor you tonight. You are the true Olympians. Good luck.