Remarks: 1999 World Games

Mrs. Shriver's Speech

Opening Ceremonies


To the athletes gathered here, I say look how far you've come. Thirty years ago, the world said you are not able to run 100 meters. Today, you run the marathon. Thirty years ago, the world said you must remain hidden away inside institutions. Today, you are being seen on international television throughout the world.

Thirty years ago, the world said you could not make worthwhile contributions to the community of humanity. Today, you bring together evening warring nations on the playing fields of sports. It is no secret, no mystery, why you have come so far so far on this landmark journey of justice. It is your courage, your skill and the boundless determination of your spirit that lets you soar to new heights every year in almost every country in the world.

There is something else as well. Your own strong spirit has inspired your mothers, your fathers, your extended families, and even your entire communities to join in this extraordinary pilgrimage of hope.

Together, you have become passionate and convincing messengers of change. You have shown the world the immense power of the voice of families in the public arena.

As I look out on this beautiful gathering of the families and athletes of Special Olympics, it is easy to see the extraordinary revolution you are creating. And that revolution is occurring not just in sports, but in your new access to good housing-good education-good health care-good jobs and fulfilling careers.

All of these were once denied to you, but today they are becoming more and more available.

You have shown the power of the human spirit to accomplish these vast changes, to overcome the highest obstacles, to move out of the shadows of past injustice and into the bright sunshine of opportunity and hope.

The beginning of a new century is also a new beginning for each of you. An ancient Greek said, give us a lever and a place to stand, and we will move the world.

You have found your lever. You are taking your stand, and you are truly moving the world.

You are teaching all nations the healing power of the human spirit. You are demonstrating to the entire world that disabled people are not unable, and that each and every person on our planet deserves a full and fair chance to make the very most of their own ability.

My heart is full this evening to see the countless miracles that the families and athletes of Special Olympics have wrought.

Welcome to these games, and welcome to the better world you have helped create.

Thank you and God bless you.