This year the Special Olympics New Mexico State Summer Games theme is “Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics.” It’s hard to believe that fifty years ago Eunice Kennedy Shriver ushered 1,000 Special Olympics athletes into Soldier Field in Chicago to compete in the first Special Olympics International Games. Athletes were represented from three countries, and the competition changed the lives of people with intellectual disabilities forever. In fact, that day has been described as the day that “released an entire population from a prison of ignorance and misunderstanding.” It’s hard to believe that today, over FIVE MILLION Special Olympics athletes from more than 180 countries are training, competing, and continuing to serve as champions of change.
Like all anniversaries, this anniversary invites us to leave our daily routine and re-live and reflect on the foundational year of 1968. This year deserves celebration because it changed the way we think and the way we act… forever. Even Mayor Richard Daley who in 1968 stood by Mrs. Shriver’s side at those first Games was quoted as saying “You know, Eunice, the world will never be the same after this.” He was right. I think the very heart of this entire 50th Anniversary can be captured in that thought.
Just like the Special Olympics Games in Chicago, our Special Olympics State Summer Games in Albuquerque will be a celebration of every person’s life that has been changed through a Special Olympics experience. As we link our past to the present, I pray hearts will be full as we play together, laugh together, celebrate together and live together. TOGETHER is why we are celebrating. TOGETHER remains our goal for the next fifty years.