Opening Ceremonies, 1985 European Special Olympics Games
Dublin, Ireland - July 4, 1985
President and Mrs. Hillery, Special Olympians, Parents, Coaches, Friends of Special Olympics;
I thank you Mrs. President, the people of Ireland, and the citizens of Dublin for being the gracious hosts of these 1985 European Special Olympics Games.
I am very proud that this historic event is taking place in my ancestral home. I remember with great affection the warmth of your hospitality to my brother Jack, my sister Jean and me when we accompanied President Kennedy on his state visit to Ireland 22 years ago.
Your welcome has been no less warm for these 2,000 remarkable athletes who have come to Ireland from 16 nations of Europe.
People ask how Special Olympics has become the fastest growing sports program in the world. In the summer of 1968 we were a single track meet in Chicago with 1,000 athletes. In this summer of 1985, we are 20,000 separate programs for one million athletes in over 60 nations.
I believe the answer is near to us here in this ancient land. For over 1,000 years Ireland has been a missionary to the world in the cause of hospitality and justice. Ireland ahs always opened its doors to excellence and sent forth poets and philosophers, writers and musicians, teachers and saints. As my brother said in 1963, "It is that quality of the Irish, the remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination that is needed more than ever today. We need people who can dream of things that never were and ask why not?" In the presence here of these brave athletes that question has been answered for all nations and for all time.
Special Olympians, what lesson will you teach the world? What truth will you reveal on these playing fields? I believe the truth you uphold is an ideal as ancient as mankind. It is that all human beings are created in the sense that God gives each of us the capacity and the hunger for moral excellence, for courage, for friendship and for love.
What ever the speed of our feet, whatever the strength of our bodies, each of us is capable of these highest virtues. So Olympians good luck to you all. As your show to the world the Special Olympics spirit - skill - courage - sharing - and joy, you will give us far more than we can ever give you.
For it is in our giving to others, in our failing to give, in our caring or failing to care, that we inch mankind forward or let it fall back. The love we give to our friends, our parents, our children, to the sick, the aged, the poor, the powerless, becomes a part of each of us and multiplies as we pass it on. And slowly, day-by-day, through this mysterious arithmetic, the hardness and pain of life are diminished and the thin, precious spiral of hope ascends.
-- Bon chance. Viel gluck. Buona fortuna. Go neiry an tadh libh. Good luck Special Olympians.