Remarks: 1997 World Games

1997 Special Olympics World Winter Games

Opening Ceremonies

Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Skydome, Toronto, Ontario

Welcome to this spirited, magnificent land of Canada that chose to host the 1997 Special Olympics World Winter Games. Thank you, all the citizens of Canada, for honoring the Special Olympics athletes with the largest Winter Games in the history of sport.

Twenty years ago, who would have thought that Special Olympic speed skaters could reach world-class speeds of 32 kilometers per hour? That you would be skiing down a mountain at up to 64 kilometers per hour? That you would be trained and have the stamina to compete in a 10 kilometer cross country skiing competition? And, that you would do all of this in front of world television. The whole world is watching you. Look how far you've come.

But statistics and records alone do not make heroes and heroines. So, why now, at the dawning of a new century, have you, the Special Olympics athletes and your families, become our heroes and heroines? I believe the answer is that not only do you embody the original Olympic ideal, but you give living witness to the power of human courage and fortitude of every kind.

You have led us to build a volunteer spirit of service and caring and learning, unequaled by another other movement in the world. You have done so, not in egotism, selfishness, or in bringing humiliation to our great institutions. Instead, you, the Special Olympics athletes, have created ways of all of our institutions, whether they be business, social work, politics, or religion, to work together and give new purpose to every life.

Tonight, we praise and thank your parents, your grandparents, your brothers and sisters, and guardians. Every family is called upon to make sacrifices in the name of love, but the families of Special Olympics athletes have done much, much more. Each day they demand civil rights for their children that others take for granted; in education, employment, and in health. Families, we salute and commend you, and beg you to continue to fight for these rights with your usual grace and determination and success.

So athletes, in conclusion, carry us on eagle's wings and show us now and always your vision, your integrity, your energy, your lives-which prove that all men and women are created equal, and are welcomed on earth, saith the Lord God, and that you will never, never, never let that vision die. Congratulations! Now go forth and compete.