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Remarks at the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics World Games in New Haven, Connecticut

July 01, 1995

Let's give her another hand. [Applause] Thank you, Loretta Claiborne, for that wonderful introduction. And thank you for the power of your example for young people all across America and throughout the world: I know we're all impressed that you have completed 25 marathons. I'm also pleased that in these games you're representing Team Pennsylvania in one of my favorite sports, bowling. I also want to thank four other very special runners—four members of the United States Special Olympics Team, David Congdon, David McQuarry, Troy Rutter and Daniel Bailey, who came to Washington to the White House this week to run 3 miles with me to highlight the importance of Special Olympics. They were much faster than I was, but they were very gentle and kind that day. I want to congratulate the city of New Haven and the State of Connecticut for the magnificent job that they have done. From the Governor, the Senators, the members of the congressional district, to the mayor, to all the ordinary citizens in this State and this wonderful city where my wife and I met almost 25 years ago: You have done a wonderful, wonderful job.

Ladies and gentlemen, we must also thank the person whose inspiration, leadership, and determination has brought us all here today, the founder of these games, Eunice Shriver. Year after year, decade after decade, her vision grows clearer and her energy seems to increase as she brings more and more and more of us throughout the world into the orbit of her incredible determination to make the Special Olympics all that it can be and to mean all that it can mean for all of us.

We also thank her for making the Special Olympics a family affair. Thank you, Sargent Shriver, for being the creative force behind the worldwide growth of Special Olympics. And thank you, Timothy Shriver, for doing such an outstanding job as president of these 1995 games.

I also want to thank the distinguished former Governor of Connecticut, Lowell Weicker, who has continued to serve his country magnificently as the chairman of these 1995 games. Thank you, Lowell Weicker. Please stand up. Thank you. [Applause]

Let me welcome also leaders throughout the world who have come here to cheer for their athletes. We have people from countries all across the globe. I am here to cheer for the Americans. They're here to cheer for their athletes. And we're all here to cheer all of you on. Thank you for coming from all distant corners of the globe.

These world games are being called the games of inclusion. From their beginnings in the United States 27 years ago, the Special Olympics have grown to include more than 144 countries on 6 continents. Large and small nations are represented here, welcomed as equals.

We have seen here people brought together of every race, color, and creed, every faith, in a joyful celebration of peaceful competition, good will, and the triumph of the human spirit. The world could learn a great lesson from all of you standing down here in the Yale Bowl tonight: Everybody counts, and everybody can do something very, very important and good.

You are the living symbol that we can reach across continents, across cultures, across human differences, to unleash the God-given potential that lies within every individual. You have shown us in so many ways that when you are given the chance, you can do extraordinary things. The world community is recognizing this more and more.

We have come so far in such a short time. Here in the United States, it has only been 5 years since we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, committing ourselves to treating our people on the basis of their abilities, not their disabilities. And the world is moving as well. This week, on its 50th anniversary, the United Nations convened the very first international symposium on intellectual disabilities. There is more to come.

But our work is not yet done. President Kennedy once said that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened. So tonight I challenge all of you and every citizen of the world watching us to be an olympic champion for inclusion, a champion for equal rights, a champion for dignity, a champion for the triumph of the human spirit in all of us.

That spirit, that spirit, these athletes are about to show all over the globe. So, by all means and with great spirit, let the games begin.

I want all of you to know that you have our love, our support, and our admiration. I hereby declare the 1995 Special Olympics World Games officially open.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:40 p.m. at the Yale Bowl. In his remarks, he referred to Loretta Claiborne, athlete and Special Olympics board member; Gov. John G. Rowland of Connecticut; and Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven, CT.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics World Games in New Haven, Connecticut Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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