Estonian Special Olympics Team Farewell Ceremony – Remarks by Ambassador Melville

Special Olympic Delegation. (Photo: Austrian Embassy)
Special Olympic Delegation. (Photo: Austrian Embassy)

March 13, 2017

Thank you Ambassador Danler for hosting us all at this truly special event. It’s my honor to join you this afternoon as we celebrate your trip to the Special Olympics. Dear athletes, mentors, coaches, family members and supporters, we are here today because a courageous American woman, and former U.S. State Department employee I might add, had the bold idea that if people with intellectual disabilities were given the same opportunities and experiences as everybody else, that they could achieve more than anybody thought possible. So in her backyard in Maryland, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started hosting small summer camps where all children could swim, kick soccer balls, ride horses and enjoy the summer sun. At those camps Mrs. Shriver proved how capable people, all people, are if given the chance. The camp she started proved to be immensely popular and within a few years she had grown it into the first International Special Olympics in 1968. For almost 50 years now, the games have helped us to celebrate the very best of humanity.

Mrs. Shriver was a visionary who questioned the status quo and pushed people to embrace that self-evident truth the founders of my country laid out in our founding document, that we are all created equal. Estonian, Austrian, or American, we can all celebrate the triumph of achieving a sought-after goal and I’m sure you will at the games.

Mrs. Shriver’s son, Dr. Timothy P Shriver who is carrying on her vision as the Special Olympics Director, gave me this message for you: Team Estonia represents the best of Special Olympics – well trained, brave, ready to compete, and ready to prove the power of their Olympic dreams.  I am so grateful to all the athletes, their coaches, family members, sponsors, and all the volunteers who together have made it possible for team Estonia to shine!  I can’t wait to see you all in Austria!

Well, I wish I could join you and Dr. Shriver in Austria to watch you showcase all of the hard work you have put in. You promise to inspire each of us to remember that we can achieve whatever we set our minds to. I’m humbled by your dedication and it’s truly an honor to spend some time with you all today. From all of us cheering you on from here, good luck in Austria, Team Estonia!