A couple weeks ago I was on a Zoom call with Special Olympics representatives from around the world. The purpose of the call was to pay tribute to our Founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Everyone who was invited to speak told powerful stories of Mrs. Shriver’s influence on their lives. Their stories inspired me to think about three people who have had the greatest influence on my life. It was meaningful to think about each one of them, and I encourage you to do the same.
Many people shared stories about Mrs. Shriver during the Zoom call. One woman was Renee Dease, an older African American woman whose words were filled with the kind of warmth and wisdom that can only come by having gone through life. She shared that she had “felt the whirlwind of Mrs. Shriver for more than forty years.” Ms. Dease gave Mrs. Shriver credit for helping her, encouraging her, and inspiring her. Her words honoring Mrs. Shriver were spoken so beautifully, I have chosen to share some of them with you.
“What I would like to say to Mrs. Shriver today is the same as I said yesterday. Mrs. Shriver, for you I have created many memories of strength, love, pride, and inspiration. When I have questions to ask myself today, I reflect on advice you have given. You have set a remarkable life-long legacy of what I am to do in my career at Special Olympics, which represents the brightest future for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.”
Just like Renee Dease, what I would say to Mrs. Shriver today is also the same as I would have said yesterday:
Mrs. Shriver, thank you for bringing the joy of sport to those who may never ever have been invited to play. Special Olympics is what it is because Special Olympics athletes are who they are, and you understood the value they bring to our world. I absolutely love being a part of what this movement is and what it does, and just like you, I thank God for having invited me to join Him in this amazing work.