" - As we hope for the best in them - hope is reborn in us." Eunice Kennedy Shriver
These words, which were spoken years ago, still resonate today to all who strive for equality.
I came to Special Olympics Delaware as its Executive Director 21 years ago, having previously spent several months working as a volunteer on the organization's fundraising committee.
In the wake of Mrs. Shriver's passing, I struggle to capture the legacy, the impact, the vision - yet I am left with but one clear thought: Mrs. Shriver never looked back.
I believe she never took stock of what she had accomplished: the walls that had been torn down; the myths that had been shattered; and the bridges of acceptance she built - across every nation, every community, and so many families - which echoed the belief that persons with intellectual disabilities mattered, had value, should be celebrated, and should be respected.
If she did look back at any point, she would have seen the barriers - that she worked so hard to shatter - crumbling down and disappearing at our schools and in our communities, and, in its places, seen acceptance and awareness raised to new heights.
But she didn't look back.
She kept her eyes, her heart and her fervor focused forward - on all that still needed to be done. And, if we are honest with ourselves - we realize she asked so little.
She simply asked that we accept those with intellectual disabilities for who they are - not for what we think they should be. And, in turn, appreciate the many gifts they contribute just from their zeal of being a part of what we take for granted every single day.
As a tribute to her legacy, let us keep our eyes focused forward and recognize, however unfortunate, our work is not done - not until every person with an intellectual disability is accepted, respected and cherished.
Join Mrs. Shriver's cause - our cause. - Be a fan! Change the world!