2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games Opening Ceremony Speech

June 24, 2011

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Tim Shriver's Opening Speech

Ime Mesa!  Are you all in?

Let me begin by saying how much I wish my mother were here.  On behalf of my family, I want to thank you for remembering my father and especially my mother.  EvNIke loved the Greek Gods and even more, the Greek Goddesses.  I think tonight in your generosity, you have made EvNike an honorary Goddess of Greece.  She would love being a Goddess!  But she would be quick to say, “hurry up Timothy! It’s late and the athletes have to get their rest!

So from all of us in Special Olympics, thank you people of Greece.  In these days of adversity, you have endured the deepest pain, but you have never sacrificed your deepest values. Despite all the struggle, you didn’t fail Special Olympics, and I stand here to promise you the athletes of Special Olympics will not fail you!  Watch them, follow them, and you will find the power to unite, to rise, to triumph again. Thank you Greece!

You see, athletes we know that you know what it takes to achieve victory in the face of adversity.

Every year, over 3.5 million SO athletes overcome the most outrageous injustice to come the playing fields of sport in order to lay claim to their rightful place on the playing fields of life.  All over the world, they are playing unified and by their example, inviting the whole world to live unified too. 

Their secret is simple: don’t compete with anyone but yourself. Just beat your best. Impossible is a state of mind and so too is the choice to embrace the power within you and shatter impossible.  1/200th of a second is less than the blink of an eye but improve that much every day and the impossible comes true.  Striving is what lifts the human spirit. Risking yourself without fear of failure is the heart of the Olympic movement.  Playing with openness and joy is the soul of Special Olympics.

Tonight, we have our chance to join in sharing the secret.   After all, each of us wants pursue our own Olympic dream, to join our small lives to something bigger than ourselves, to play among the brave and the free.  So let’s blow open the circle of human belonging and launch our own revolution, a dignity revolution.  Our goal is simple:  a world where there is no “us” or “them.” In the dignity revolution, there is only us.  A world where each one of us called by name, beautiful, sacred, able.  A world where there a million different abilities but no disabilities. 

That’s our dignity revolution.  We’ll lead it by playing unified and by living unified.  We will be the best in sports and the best in life.

And if anyone should ask you athletes about the real Olympics, raise your arms in triumph and tell them clearly:  I too have come to Athens for the REAL Olympics and I too am a REAL Olympic Champion! 

The waiting is over.  The dignity revolution is underway and It’s triumph time.  Off to your races athletes.

Play strong, play long, play for the good victory, play on!

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