Last week I had the privilege of attending the 2012 Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. One thousand officers from around the world gathered to celebrate their fundraising success, strengthen their efforts, and further unite around the Special Olympics Movement – the cause they have chosen as their own.
This year’s conference had a stellar line-up of motivational speakers. One in-particular uniquely opened our eyes and our hearts to the battle all people with intellectual disabilities fight against on a daily basis – ignorance, injustice, and denial of opportunity. Her name is Allison Werne, a 31-year-old Special Olympics athlete, who in spite of being confined to a wheel chair and not being able to talk – in a matter of minutes gave every single one of us an incredibly precious gift.
Noises, not words, flowed out of Allison as we read her message printed on a large screen in front of the room. Her sounds were passionate and rhythmic and powerful. In a room that quickly grew silent, she drew us in as we watched and listened to her freely be who God created her to be. We witnessed her capability of knowing, of feeling, and of contributing to the whole. We experienced human DIGNITY in a way we could not have without her.
Unlike millions of people with intellectual disabilities, Allison Werne was given a stage and a chance to participate. She changed her audience. We owed her that chance as we do every person like her. The greatest threat to Allison’s human dignity and our own – if we choose to ignore it.