Monday, September 27, 2010

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day Media Highlights

Editor's Note: Tim is in the midst of a very hectic travel schedule right now but wanted to make sure we shared with you a select few of the media highlights from the first EKS Day! So check out the great stories from around the world below!

EKS Day Media Highlights:

27 Sept – Irish Times (Ireland) - Special Olympics founder honoured
On Saturday, Ms. Davis celebrated the memory of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver at Farmleigh House in Dublin. It was one of a number of events held worldwide to mark the inaugural Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day. Ms Kennedy Shriver’s son Mark also attended the Dublin event.

26 Sept – (New Jersey, USA) - Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day
Special Olympics, the organization Eunice Kennedy Shriver began 42 years ago to provide athletic and other opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, paid tribute to its founder in celebrations here and around the world yesterday. The local ceremony hosted by Special Olympics New Jersey featured placement of a time capsule in a memorial brick wall in front of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Sports & Training Center on Princess Road.

26 Sept – New Sabah Times (Malaysia) – Over 100 nations celebrate Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day
Over 100 countries worldwide celebrated the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day (EKS) yesterday, and in Malaysia, the Special Olympics Sabah (SOS) was given the honour to organise a Camp Shriver at Taman Awan Teluk Likas.

26 Sept – Namibia Sport (Namibia) – Football for Hope Centre inaugurated
The Katutura Football for Hope Centre was officially inaugurated on Saturday, September 25 with a high powered guest list in attendance including Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, Dr John Dow Junior of Special Olympics Africa, Jan Coetzee of Street Football World and Inge Zaamwani Kamwi of Special Olympics Namibia.

25 Sept – The Hindu (India) - World remembers Eunice Kennedy Shriver today
Special Olympics Bharat will celebrate founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver on Saturday, by organizing a host of activities and special runs.

25 Sept - Special Olympics and Michelle Kwan Skating Clinic
Fox 25 News (Boston, Mass, USA)
Michelle Kwan: “We're getting a bunch of Special Olympians, parents, volunteers getting the community together, getting on the ice, and this is happening all over the world”

25 Sept - Stadium Renamed for Eunice Kennedy Shriver
News 10 NBC (Rochester, NY, USA)
"The stadium formerly known as the Special Olympics stadium was re-named today in honor of Eunice Kennedy Shriver”

25 Sept - Eunice Kennedy Shriver Legacy Lives On
NBC News 4 Today (Wash. D.C., USA)
She may be gone but Eunice Kennedy Shriver's legacy lives on. Today her memory is being honored with the declaration of the first-ever Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rosa's Law is a Good First Step

Over the past two years, youth activists within the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign have secured nearly 140,000 online pledges from schools and communities across the country, setting off a national conversation about humiliating speech and the language of discrimination. It is not hard to see the fingerprints of thousands of youth activists, so athletes, and the families and communities on the passage of Rosa's Law this week, which is now on its way to the President for his signature.

I know I join millions of Americans in hoping for a quick signature by the President, and I also join them in recognizing that changing statutory language is not the end. The debate over language is only an opening to a discussion about attitude change and authentic inclusion. Our part at Special Olympics is promoting unity on the playing field and in communities through sport. We're committed to engaging millions more in the U.S. and around the world.

Critics who say that changing words can not solve problems are right. But it's a good start.

Congratulations to Senators Barbara Mikulski and Michael Enzi, and all the 72 co-sponsors across party lines, on this important accomplishment. Rosa's law is an historic triumph of self-advocacy and youth advocacy on behalf of our country's most vulnerable. This may be a first, but it won't be the last!

Happy Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day!

I want to share with all of you a joint message from my brother Anthony and I that went out to the Special Olympics movement and Best Buddies International.

 Dear Friends,

On behalf of Special Olympics and Best Buddies, thank you for joining us today in celebrating Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day. We are thrilled about the countless ways athletes and buddies, volunteers, and friends of Special Olympics and Best Buddies have joined together to perform "Acts" of unity and inclusion around the world in honor of our mother. This day is more than just a tribute to her, it is a tribute to the difference you are making in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, and to the future you are building where all people are accepted, regardless of ability.

As we celebrate today, we thought these words from her would be a special inspiration to you:

“There is no joy like the joy of unleashing the human spirit. There is no laughter like the laughter of those who are happy with others. There is no purpose more noble than to build communities of acceptance for all. This is our glory.” 

Thank you again for your contribution. We hope you will visit our website and view the "Acts" of unity that so many have performed around the world today.


Friday, September 24, 2010

In One Athlete, Lay a Movement's Story

I had a chance to meet an extraordinary athlete today at the table tennis venue at the China National Games from Hu He Hao Te, Mongolia. He is a shining example of our future. Everyone could see his high level of skill, and his mother told me a story of change and passion in her son. Guo Kun Fu started playing table tennis at 12 after having to quit soccer due to many injuries (he is now 22). It was very apparent to me that he has the first and most important ingredient for success: passion for the game.

When left school at 18, Kun Fu's mother was prepared to quit her job to create a place where he could live and work; to her enormous joy, this was not necessary. As part of the legacy of the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games, the government opened a sunshine center in her neighborhood; complete with job training, skill development, and table tennis, making it possible for Kun Fu to take his game to the next level. At the sunshine center, he practices 1-2 hours day and up to 4 hours on the weekends. It is no surprise that his health is good, confidence has exploded, and his table tennis is first rate.

He has won two silver medals at the China National Games. His mother explained to me that he has started to understand the difference between the gold silver and bronze medals and is now determined to get a gold! His mother said the gold has provided extra motivation and she has seen improvement in her son even at these games.

Kun Fu's story has all the ingredients of our future, focus on rigorous and daily training, a powerful advocate in his mother, and an inclusive and supportive community.

Some day, every Special Olympics athlete will have this same story!

Continuing to Harvest New Opportunities in China

Last night, I attended the “Mid-Autumn Festival” with Special Olympics athletes competing in the 5th annual China National Games. This celebration, a national holiday in China, takes place on the autumnal equinox, the night of the year when the moon is at its fullest and roundest. It is a celebration of harvest time and an occasion for feasting, and I cannot think of a more fitting time to celebrate all of the accomplishments of the Special Olympics Program in China and the “harvest” of new programs and facilities that have been created for our athletes here.

In Fuzhou alone, the number of Special Olympics athletes has increased ten-fold from 2,000 to 20,000 in the past two years, thanks in large part to the construction the Fujian Sports Management Center for the Disabled. Another enduring legacy of these games is the construction of over 130 “sunshine homes” in the Fujian Province, which provide education and employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. The changing perceptions of people within Chinese society is also evident in the recent creation of “Special Love,” a feature length film created in honor of the China National Games, which challenges traditional stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities by portraying the transformational relationship of a young Chinese professional and a boy with intellectual disabilities and their mutual interest in basketball.

Throughout China, these games have undoubtedly encouraged greater acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities, and this year alone, Special Olympics China is slated to reach over 1 million athletes. And yet, I am reminded of how much more work there is to be done in improving the quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities in China and achieving their full inclusion and empowerment in education, employment, and society. Our movement is characterized by a restless dissatisfaction with the status quo, and while we applaud SO China for the tremendous strides in the past few years, and we look forward to the continued progress toward greater acceptance and inclusion.

Thank You Gert Boyle and Columbia Sportswear!

Look what our friends at Columbia Sportswear have done! I visited a "Sunshine School" for people with intellectual disabilities in Fuzhou this afternoon and all of the students were outfitted with Columbia Sportswear t-shirts that were donated by our generous and longtime friends, the Boyles.  Check out the picture below to see just how far and wide the support of the Columbia Sportswear team, especially Gert and her son Tim, reaches around the world. Thank you for your wonderful support!

Monday, September 20, 2010

A New Paradigm is Emerging

Meeting President Lech Walesa in Poland these week was like touching history. His presence at the Games was an unmistakable message for our athletes that they are the vanguard of a new, powerful social movement.

During my visit to the Polish Parliament buildings in Warsaw today with our youth summit, I saw the 22 points the shipyard workers submitted to the communist government to protest its rule. They were painted by hand on salvaged plywood from the shipyard. There was no sophisticated PR roll-out, no elaborate graphics, just raw determination and a relentless passion for, and a deep belief in, the quality of the human spirit. Those were the ingredients Walesa used to topple one of the most powerful regimes the world has seen. Needless to say, these are the same gifts our athletes use to topple age-old barriers and stubborn indifference.

But what was equally important was Mr. Walesa's comments at a Games event, "The age of blocks and ideologies is over." He went on to suggest a new paradigm is emerging, but it is our athletes that most understand this paradigm - our athletes understand that relationships are central to social justice. The new paradigm puts unity and community at the top of the world's agenda.

I can feel the spirit of Walesa as the baton of leadership is handed off to the athletes of Special Olympics. And they may be able to slim down the 22 points to 2: Get in the Game and Play United!

Thanks to former President of Poland, and the 
hero of 'Solidarity' Mr. Lech Walesa for your support!

Share the Experience of Special Olympics!

There's so much going on here in Warsaw for the 2010 Special Olympics European Summer Games, I wanted to make sure you get a chance to see for yourself. You can see some of the activities on the ground in my Twitter feed, and follow the Games on their Facebook page. But you have to check out all of these amazing photos being captured by Adam Nurkiewicz. There are one or two below, be sure to check out his website and galleries. More must see stuff on You Tube embedded below, straight from the amazing Opening Ceremony of the Games!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Healthy Partnership

What a thrill it was to sign an agreement this morning with the International Federation of Adapted Physical Activity (IFAPA). We are so excited for this new partnership with 30 of Europe's leading experts on physical education, who have spent their careers understanding the health of Special Olympics athletes. They will be a tremendous help to us as we consider new ways to develop the abilities of our athletes through the creation of a new sports training program.

The best suggestion that came out of this session was to turn off the elevators of our 32 story hotel. Even though the person making this suggestion was on the sixth floor, it was a great reminder of the countless, simple opportunities we have every day to improve our fitness. I am thrilled that these experts and health practitioners will be partnering with us to advance sports training and competition for our athletes!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I want to share with you this wonderful song and tribute to my mother, written by Michael Sarver, which debuted at the Opening Ceremonies of the U.S. National Games this summer. I hope it will encourage you to carry on her legacy and work for people with intellectual disabilities!

2013 World Winter Games in Korea

My sincere gratitude is extended to Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner, my fellow Board Directors, who are in Seoul, Korea today to announce the location of the next Special Olympics World Winter Games. My brother-in-law, Governor Schwarzenegger, and actress Zhang Ziyi were also present for this amazing announcement. We are so excited that Korea will help us unite the world in 2013!

Friday, September 10, 2010

What is Your Act of Unity?

The first ever Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day is happening on September 25th and we need your help to reach 100,000 Acts of Unity! Watch this great PSA narrated by the incomparable Robin Roberts from “Good Morning America” and go to to learn more. And stay tuned for some great social media tools that we’re sharing to help you spread the word about EKS Day!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Road to Happiness

What makes us happy? In recent decades, researchers in psychology and economics have started using the tools of their profession to develop sophisticated, reliable models to answer this ageless question across countries and through time.

The emergence of positive psychology in the 1970s resulted from a desire among psychologists to emphasize individual strength and virtue in a field that had traditionally focused on treating mental illnesses and addressing emotional deficits. Since then, positive psychologists have made a lot of progress in identifying the things that bring us happiness. They have found that we experience happiness in many ways, through our emotional orientation to the past, present, and future; through the activities in which we are engaged; and in our ability to use our personal strengths and talents in work, leisure, relationships, and to contribute to something greater than ourselves.

Paralleling this development in psychology was a similar movement in the field of economics. Beginning in the 1970s, researchers started to find some truth to the axiom that “money doesn’t buy happiness” when they discovered that that nation’s level of happiness increases more slowly once it reaches a certain level of wealth. As a result, many economists believe measures of happiness complement measure of income or wealth by providing a more holistic gauge of well-being and life satisfaction.

Yesterday, one of my longtime friends, Dr. Elizabeth Dykens, Professor of Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt University and Co-Director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities, led a wonderful discussion at Special Olympics about how we can use the tools of positive psychology to study the happiness of people with intellectual disabilities. She is interested in learning the ways in which people with intellectual disabilities find happiness, hope, and contentment and live engaged lives with their families and communities.

So many times people with intellectual disabilities are defined by negatives—what they do not have or cannot do relative to others—causing many of us to forget that people with intellectual disabilities can be happy, lead meaningful lives, and bring happiness and fulfillment to the lives of others. In fact many studies note that having a family member with an intellectual disability can help us to lead richer, more meaningful lives, teach us patience, tolerance, and make us more able to accept differences with others.

My own experience suggests that millions of people with intellectual disabilities around the world lead engaged and happy lives, and find tremendous joy and meaning in relationships with family and friends. You don’t have to be a researcher to know this to be true.

What is your road to happiness?